Again, this reportÉoutlining the most horrid systematic and widespread abuses imaginableÉwas issued a month ago. But it hasnt exactly been burning up the airwaves. I havent heard of any boycotts or celebrity condemnations. The feathered friends at PETA are busy protesting a proposed experiment in which 20 or so pigeons will fly around carrying smog-monitoring equipment over San Jose, before returning home. PETA research associate Matthew Mongiello was worried that the heavy and cumbersome equipment could result in injury and exhaustion for the birds. Pigeons are intelligent and sensitive animals, he said. They deserve protection just as birds and cats.
You see it all the timeÉin New Orleans, while actual people were dying of exposure and thirst, many concerned citizens across the country wept and donated for the plight of their dogs. While people are starved and slaughtered in Africa and Asia, privileged Americans pull out their wallets and give to PETA so Pamela Anderson can fight the injustice of fried chicken. It seems like a very selfish form of generosity, because people love animals for their own reasons: animals cant criticize you, cant break up with you, cant vote for Rick Santorum or fire rockets into your apartment building. And invariably, the cutest animals draw the most sympathyÉbaby seals, for instance, who have never been endangered but couldnt possibly be more lovable, take precedence over smarter, uglier beasts. Our nations love of dogs and cats is, objectively viewed, nothing more than a similar cultural prejudice. Americans will recoil at the barbaric concept of eating a dog, and then pull into the next drive-thru for a burger. And you can bet that if the next media-hyped epidemic was pig flu, wed have little problem with a nationwide cull of porkers, which are known to be more intelligent than dogs, but arent nearly as cute or furry.
Its not that I hate animals; I think theyre just great. Its true, they are subjected to unspeakably awful treatmentÉin the meat industry, in unnecessary and cruel experiments, and in many other ways. This is wrong, I agree. But it seems impossibly self-absorbed to lament the plight of pets when we cant even take care of people. And it seems insane to me that, if were going to get pissed at China about something, wed choose dog-icide over chopping up healthy human beings for parts.
So why is it that the killing of animalsÉfurry mammals, at leastÉelicits more horror from us than the killing of peopleÉforeign people, at least? I think part of it can be attributed to the innocence of animals. Clearly, dogs cant form malicious intent, since they generally dont know what the hell is going on. But can a peasant in China, or Iraq, for that matter, be described any other way? One constant throughout the world is that whatever the local political climate is, most people spend their time going to work, running errands and trying not to get shot. They may not be as loyal or sweet, but in terms of causing wars theyre as innocent as beagles. Probably some of the reason is simple familiarity, the same reason we feel worse when we hear about a few Brits or Canadians dying than, say, a few thousand Pakistanis. Everyone in the US knows a dog, but nobodys got a Falun Gong practitioner tethered to a tree in the backyard.
Whatever it is, we need to get over it, and in order to do that, we need to recognize it first. In China, people are religiously persecuted, unjustly imprisoned, tortured, and then their organs are removed while theyre still alive and sold for profit, but the real scandal, by the media and the publics estimation, is that theyre killing dogs to prevent disease. All over the world, people are killed under the flimsiest of pretexts, many at the hands of our own government and its allies. And were worried about pigeons.
Over a thousand dead in Lebanon so far; over a hundred thousand in Iraq and no end in sight. And wed probably do something to stop it, if only they were dogs.