Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Forever-Babies

It'll be Cruft's season soon (Do you know why it’s called Cruft’s? Answer at the bottom of this post). Apparently, the aim of the contest is to breed a beast whose physical, mental and behavioural attributes match someone else's idea of the perfect dog. It’s all quite bizarre.

I like dogs – I own two - but I don’t watch Cruft’s for the dogs. It's the owners I love to watch as they fuss and croon and pat and kiss and cuddle and pout and groom their cherished 'babies'. I'd go as far as to say that I see more love displayed by dog owners for their pets than I see in many parents for their children. It's almost as if the little darlings were more important than human beings. Surely not ...

Sadly, it’s true. There are people out there who think that animals are more important than people. The law seems to agree with them too. Did you know that there is more legislation to protect animals than there is for children? And is there any significance in the fact that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals receives Royal patronage while the organisation that fights similarly for children's rights is only the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children? And I’ve actually heard people say that they wouldn’t have a dog because their house or flat is too small for one. Presumably it’s not too small for humans, though?

So what does all this say about us as a nation?

I think that many people have forgotten that animals are not little humans. We anthropomorphise far too much. Personally, I blame Walt Disney. It’s all that blasted mouse’s fault. Generations of kids have grown up believing that animals have the same feelings, emotions, sensations and goals as humans do. Sorry kids. They don’t. Animals don’t love. They don’t hate. They’re not greedy, or hopeful, or spiteful or devious. They don’t get jealous, or angry, or frustrated in the sense that we do. They just get on with the business of being a dog. Or a mouse. They just are. In fact, it’s their very lack of these human qualities that endears them to us. They are as helpless and brainless as babies and we feel the need to protect them. And the joy is they never grow up. They are our forever-babies.

We talk to our pets even though what we say is just meaningless blather to them. They’ll never understand it. They’ll never get any cleverer. They’ll never go through the ‘Terrible Twos’. They won’t give us Hell during puberty or get grouchy once a month. They won’t turn into spotty teenagers who hate everything. They’ll stay as our babies until they die. And then we’ll get a new one.

Over the years, I’ve attracted quite a lot of anger for my views on animals. I remain unrepentant. I like and respect animals. My life is enriched by contact with them. All of our lives are enriched by our contact with the unique creatures that share our planet. I just don't lose sight of the fact that their very uniqueness is what makes them special. If we turn them into little human beings, we somehow say that we are better than them and that all animals should strive to be like us.

That’s a ghastly thought. Vive la difference, I say. I think of myself as a part of that great biosphere, not as something outside it or even above it. Biodiversity is something to be cherished, not something to be dressed up in little bootees, coiffured, pampered and placed upon a velvet pedestal. An animal is an animal and a human is a human. Neither is more important than the other. They're just different.

Oh, and Cruft's was named after the dog expert Charles Cruft (1852‑1938) who started the dog show in 1886, by the way.

1 comment:

Me said...

You are so very, very anti the mouse. Its a shame - the hype and commerical exploitation mixed with mind numbing brain washing of kids is not all bad you know....