Thursday, October 25, 2007

Steinem, DAIS, and Covance

Local readers will be aware that Gloria Steinem was recently the keynote speaker at an October 16, 2007 fundraising event for the Madison-based Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, or DAIS. And, that she asked DAIS to drop Covance as a sponsor of the event when she learned that the company has a very long, very well-documented history of violent animal cruelty.

Wisconsin State Journal columnist Melanie Conklin wrote about the dust-up:
"As soon as we found out it was a concern for her we stopped the sponsorship of the event, " says DAIS executive director Shannon Barry. "We really want to be respectful of Gloria 's wishes and we had no idea there was any problem."
Who would have thought that Steinem would be offended by a corporation hurting animals?
Covance spokesperson Mona Terrell calls Steinem 's decision "a regrettable publicity stunt. "
As if Steinem needs more notoriety.
"Ms. Steinem 's decision to align herself with groups that oppose medical research is an unfortunate and selfish distraction from the true purpose of this event, which is to support victims of domestic abuse,” Terrell says.
Medical research like forcing pesticides down dogs’ throats.
"It is ironic that Ms. Steinem ... is criticizing the life-saving research that Covance and companies like ours have done to benefit women, children and even pets who suffer from debilitating illnesses."
[Note to paid propagandists: Always appeal to the image of sick women, children, and pets.]
Steinem's name has attracted many new sponsors for the annual luncheon, which will cover the financial loss of Covance, says Barry. Also helpful is that Steinem is donating her time.

Despite this wrinkle, Barry can 't wait to meet Steinem.

"To be in the presence of someone that iconic is like Christmas a thousand times over. ... It was her book, which I read when I was 14, that put me on the path to the work I do."

Barry adds that Steinem's presence may also help make the community aware of the magnitude of the problem of domestic violence.

"One-third of all arrests in Dane County are domestic violence-related, " says Barry. "I 'm hoping Steinem 's presence here will get that message out."
DAIS executive director Shannon Barry followed up with a letter to the editor of the Capital Times on October 23, 2007:
DAIS was notified by Gloria Steinem's office a couple of weeks ago that Steinem was not comfortable appearing at an event sponsored by Covance. This statement came after Steinem's office was contacted by the Alliance for Animals. It was suggested to us by Steinem's office that she might not attend the event given this sponsorship.

When DAIS learned of this, we immediately asked to meet with Covance. The company was extremely sympathetic and voluntarily offered to remove its name as a sponsor of the luncheon....

DAIS continues to be grateful to Covance officials for their support. Covance has been a leader in Dane County through the company's response to domestic violence victims employed in that organization. Not only have company officials created proactive employee assistance programs to deal with domestic violence, but they also have provided generous financial contributions to support the survivors.

We are grateful to Steinem for volunteering her time to speak on behalf of the issue of domestic violence and our organization. We are also grateful to have a community partner such as Covance that has not only financially supported us, but that has also lived the change we wish to see across Dane County.
Ok, Shannon Barry feels that being in Steinem’s presence is “like Christmas a thousand times over,” and that Steinem’s presence here and her talk could help make the community aware of the magnitude of the problem of domestic violence. Understandable, but she also feels that violence directed toward animals is ok so long as the aggressor is making monetary contributions to her organization. Hello?

Ms. Barry can’t have it both ways. This is the age-old story of the newly elected politician going to Washington with the best of intentions, but soon being corralled by the “generosity” of the polluting or predatory industries or agencies they had hoped to regulate. It’s all about something called ethics. Steinem has it, Barry doesn’t.

Barry bemoans the fact that the Covance sponsorship angle got local media coverage, not necessarily sympathetic to the animals, but she has no one to blame but herself and DAIS. She should have stayed on point. She could have spoken about the acknowledged domestic violence among Covance employees and called attention to the fact that kicking a dog or slapping a monkey at work just might bleed over into one’s domestic life. She could have spoken about the fact that violence begets violence, but she didn't. Instead she chose to grovel and praise the deep pockets of a leading animal abuser.

“You can’t blame Covance,” she seems to say.

I’m reminded of the beaten women I’ve encountered who resist blaming their abusive spouses.

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