Don’t quote me on this, but I lean slightly (slightly!) toward animal liberationism. No, I’m not one of those who thinks it’s morally abhorrent to make shoes out of cows, or that there should be quotas for marmosets on Fortune 500 executive boards. It’s patently ridiculous to talk about treating animals “humanely” – literally, treating them like humans. That sort of species-fluid nonsense agitates my spleen as much as the next guy’s. There’s a special place in Hell reserved for those who think we should treat animals the same way we treat humans, especially if you’ve ever been to Kings Cross.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t treat animals well, of course, just that we should treat them like animals. It might be a result of a childhood in the rolling New England countryside of y native USA, but the way people anthropomorphize their pets strikes me as grossly disrespectful to our furry friends — dogs in particular. I’ve never seen a yellow lab that looked happy to be dressed as a Leprechaun for St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know of any animal that would enjoy being carried around in a purse, except maybe Kim Kardashian.
Even the existence of certain types of dog is a testament to the sick license we take with God’s creation. Many toy dogs were intentionally bred from runts, shrinking the breeds’ average size rapidly; it’s believed Queen Victoria was singlehandedly responsible for reducing the size of Pomeranians by 50%. This has led to any number of health problems. Most are prone to hypoglycemia, liver shunts, and hydrocephalus – not to mention a litany of cardiac and respiratory defects. And for what? The amusement of European aristocrats. Imagine if German princes bred a race of disease-ridden Pygmies to keep as entertainment for their courtiers. We would, rightly, be disgusted. Now imagine if keeping those same midgets was still fashionable in 21st century Australia. I can’t see how looking at a pug or a Chihuahua doesn’t fill people with a deep shame at mankind – not because we failed to treat dogs like human beings, but because we failed to treat them as dogs, as noble a beast as they come.
The worst part is that domestication has rendered most dogs incapable of fending for themselves. Almost an entire species has been made dependent on their place in human fashion. As any dog owner will know, they’re never happier than when they’re allowed to bound through an open field or chase a varmint. They like to run. They like to hunt. They like to be outdoors. Before we decided to keep them as pets, that wasn’t a special treat they indulged only when their owners could squeeze in an hour to take them to the park – it was their entire existence. People think they show their canine companions affection by giving them a roof over their heads and two cups of dry food a day. They think, that is, they show their love by treating pets like children. But that’s the last thing dogs want – to be sheltered and fed. They’d much prefer to shelter and feed themselves. But set even a German Shepherd loose into the wild and he’d probably either starve or freeze to death. Certainly he couldn’t find a mate, rear pups, start a pack, and live off the earth as nature intended.
The only sorts of people who truly understand this are fox hunters – who are, not incidentally, the most persecuted class of pet owners in the world. The best fox hunter will let his dogs sleep in packs for warmth, not snooze at the foot of his bed. He’ll throw them a slab of raw meat and let them fight for every last morsel. And, most importantly, he’ll let them pursue and kill wild animals – their most thrilling and instinctivel pleasure except maybe for … well, you don’t need a picture. And yet we persecute hunters because they treat animals inhumanely – that is, because they treat them like animals, not like humans. What a sad, ridiculous world we live in.
Now we have NSW Premier Mike Baird trying to shut down the entire greyhound racing industry. There’s no denying the rampant culture of abuse among dog owners, and it would be truly inhumane not to sympathize with those animals hurt or killed by their masters. No one of right mind would say that cracking down on dog-beaters shouldn’t be a priority for any government anywhere in the world.
But the problem isn’t dog racing itself. In fact, besides hunting, racing is the only instance of humans allowing dogs to indulge in their favorite past time: chasing things with other dogs. It would be far better for the Baird government to use its resources to clean up dog racing than to ban it altogether – not only for those humans who depend on the $335 million industry, but for those fortunate pooches who are, under the right conditions, allowed to spend their entire lives acting like dogs.
Baird is an effete tyrant. But then mankind is an entire species of effete tyrants, especially where animals are concerned. The NSW Premier isn’t alone in his perverse notions about animal welfare, but that doesn’t justify his position. If he really cared about dogkind, he’d weed out those who savagely mistreat them. That would include both abusive punters and trendies who give their spaniels names like “Sassafras” and make them wear ridiculous hats.