Monday, December 3, 2012

Animal Abuse

"Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man." - Arthur Schopenhauer

This morning I rose with the goal of, prior to going to the office, revising a holiday-themed short story I'd written over the weekend for the upcoming Alexandria Publishing Group anthology.  I chuckled a bit, though, when I noticed that it was still titled "The Puppy" yet there was actually no puppy in it.

No, I'm not crazy.  There was a puppy in the story at first.  But as it developed it became clear that the poor canine mischief-maker couldn't successfully keep up with what I needed from the primary plot device, and so poof, I sacked him for another animal.  No warning, no performance counseling, just whap!  You're outta here.  Go find another story where they'll like you better, Fido.

The more I thought of it, the more it upset me.  It occurs to me that there are plenty of agencies who fight against animal cruelty of a physical nature, but what about their psychological needs?  What about protecting them from prejudice and discrimination?  I'm not talking about the almighty "dog-lover" versus "cat-lover" argument; the two species arguably have profoundly different characteristics and thus should be treated as differently as, say, Army and Navy football fans.  No, I'm talking about the inherent assumption, devoid of facts, that one animal breed can necessarily do a particular job better than another.

Ferinstance, when you think about those dog sleds up in Alaska, what do you see in your mind's eye?  A team of huskies, right?  Can other breeds of dogs do the same task just as well for equal pay?  Sure.  Granted, other species are wrong for the job--cats, for example, would make the human pull them, and horses would charge too much in food.  But why do we automatically make the assumption that dogsled pullers must be huskies?  Discrimination, that's why. 

Writers are probably the worst, both at propagating these stereotypes and at initially creating them.  Take the standard magician's animal sidekick, for example.  It really doesn't matter what animal appears from inside a mage's headgear, yet you never hear a story where the magician says "watch as I pull this cobra out of my hat."  Any animal small enough to fit in the hat in the first place would do, but it's always a rabbit.  Why is that?

And why is the rabbit always white?


Similarly, why do poets choose to use the perfectly benign crow/raven family as the animal incarnation of evil?  There's absolutely no reason Mr. Poe couldn't have written:

"And the parrot, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting, 
on the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door"  

Granted, parrots are known to speak, and so the continued repetition of a word by that breed of bird would seem normal, and thus it wouldn't guide us to the conclusion that the narrator was crazy as a loon (oh!  the poor maligned loons, too!).  Given that, though, another breed would've done just as well:

"But the pigeon still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling, 
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door."  

Anyway, you get my point.  Why pick on the raven?  Just because it's black?

Support your poor animal friends and their psychological well-being today, folks. 


PS--my mind goes strange places when it finds itself at the intersection of Monday morning and caffeine.  Absolutely none of this article was meant to be taken seriously, nor were any cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, or even cobras harmed in its writing. 

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