An update: Holly Crawford, the Pennsylvania woman who was selling "gothic kittens" with pierced ears has been charged with animal cruelty. But consider this:
As an Egyptology-obsessed kid, I loved the cat goddess Bast. She was a fierce protector, sometimes depicted as a lioness, sometimes as an elegant domestic feline. Since cats could kill mice, rats and cobras, the Ancient Egyptians valued the species, and gave them golden jewelry. That often included earrings: Statues associated with Bast were cats with pierced ears.
Crawford, a groomer, was selling the "gothic kittens" online, and says: "When I did it, it wasn’t with any cruel intentions. They were definitely loved, well-fed, no fleas, clipped nails. And they were happy." She claims that she checked the kittens several times a day to make sure they were healing properly. But now that she's been charged with three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, three summary counts of cruelty and three counts of conspiracy? "My name’s ruined, my reputation’s ruined, my business is ruined," she says.
What's interesting is how an act can go from being a religious honor to an illegal taboo, and how animal and human rules are so unclear. Some people think it's wrong to pierce the ear of an infant; in certain cultures it's part of a child's religious ceremony. Tattoos are generally thought of as a painful body modification, but many dog breeds are tattooed inside the thigh. Humans who brand cattle are not charged with animal abuse, and only recently has the practice of cropping or docking dog ears begun to fall out of favor. (The AKC actually seems to encourage such amputation.) Is there any consistency? Are there any universal guidelines?
Crawford plans to plead not guilty; whether a jury will find that she's broken the law and sentence her to, say, "die in a fire" as some commenters suggested, remains to be seen.