Dog Lovers and Baby Killers

Published April 11, 2011

A couple months ago, when its dog-sledding business lost customers, a Canadian company had a hundred of its dogs killed. The incident “shocked” and “angered” people. The employee who shot the dogs said he suffered “post traumatic stress” from killing them and wants compensation.

Animal activists used the incident in campaigns against dog sled rides. “I don’t think society is willing to accept that animals should be killed just because they are surplus or don’t suit the purpose they were born for,” said one. “The magnitude of this atrocity is so shocking—our heads are reeling,” another said.

What About People?
Huskies are beautiful, gentle animals, and I’m really sad this happened. But the world needs to put this in perspective. Humans eat animals. Our cars kill them along highways. Wind turbines kill eagles and other birds. More important, what about all the people who die unnecessarily?

My wife, Fiona Kobusingye, lost her son, two sisters, and four cousins to malaria. Her nephew is permanently brain-damaged because of it. Almost everyone I know has lost at least one child or sibling to this killer disease. Despite distribution of millions of bed nets, malaria still kills more African children than any other disease.

I cannot help thinking it would really be nice if, just once in a while, animal lovers, environmentalists, journalists, and other people would care half as much about African babies, children, and families, as about dogs.

African Killing Fields
Last year, almost one hundred thousand Ugandan children and adults were killed by malaria. Yet nobody seemed to care—certainly not enough to write a story about it, or get outraged that callous anti-pesticide activists lie about DDT risks and prevent the use of DDT and other insecticides that could prevent malaria, yellow fever, and other diseases that cause so much suffering, poverty, and death on our continent.

It’s as if anti-pesticide greens believe we Africans are “surplus” people on an “overpopulated” planet and don’t “suit the purposes” they think people should be born for. It’s as if our misery and deaths don’t mean anything.

This is the real atrocity, and our African heads are reeling.

DDT Is Essential
Yes, government agencies, private foundations, schoolchildren, and other kind people from rich, malaria-free countries do send bed nets, so at least some babies and pregnant women can sleep under one. But nets get torn, people don’t always use them or hang them properly, and they only reduce malaria by 20 or 30 percent. That’s why we need additional weapons, such as DDT and other insecticides.

DDT keeps most mosquitoes from even going into homes. It irritates any that do come in, so they are less likely to bite. It kills any that land on walls after a blood meal, so they can’t transmit malaria to other victims. DDT is cheap and long-lasting—one spray is good for six months or more. No other chemical in existence does all this, at any price.

Mythical DDT Harms
We are constantly told the DDT we spray on walls to keep mosquitoes out of our houses, and the insecticides we use to kill these insects, are dangerous, have undesirable side effects, and shouldn’t be used. But as Dr. Rutledge Taylor explains in his new film, “3 Billion and Counting,” years of research actually prove DDT is safe for people and the environment. (See and read The Excellent Powder, by Donald Roberts and Richard Tren.)

As Dr. Taylor points out, no one has ever died or been seriously hurt from DDT. Its worst effects are skin rashes and speculative (but unproven) connections to early lactation failure in nursing mothers and various other minor problems.

We all know what malaria does. Besides lactation failure and low birth weights in babies, malaria makes people horribly sick and unable to work, leaves millions permanently brain-damaged, and kills millions more in the most awful, painful ways imaginable.

Listen to Africans
Decisions about using DDT, larvacides, and insecticides (along with nets and drugs) need to be made by African health ministers—not by outside activists, animal lovers, or environmental and agricultural interests. These groups are spending more money trying to get rid of DDT than the world is spending to control and eradicate malaria, when almost three billion people are at risk of getting this disease and a million die from it, year after year.

We need to use DDT and other insecticides carefully, and we are doing so. In the end, however, if we don’t use them, our wonderful, brilliant, athletic, musical, hard-working children and parents will be struck down, brain-damaged, and killed by malaria.

This has to end. We need to get our priorities straight and understand what the real risks are. We need to pray that this insane opposition to disease-preventing, lifesaving chemicals will be replaced soon with a concern for babies and parents that is equal to people’s concern for sled dogs.

Cyril Boynes Jr. ([email protected]) is co-chair of the Congress of Racial Equality Uganda and a tireless advocate for health and prosperity in Africa and all other developing regions. A longer version of this article is available at Reprinted with permission.