Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Animal Lovers

"I believe that mink are raised for being turned into fur coats and if we didn't wear fur coats those little animals would never have been born. So is it better not to have been born or to have lived for a year or two to have been turned into a fur coat? I don't know." —Supermodel Barbi Benton


Several weeks ago I spotted an article in the "Living" section of the paper that really should have been in the obituaries. It was about furs, and how they are supposedly making a comeback with the elite fashion set.

After I looked at the pictures (smiling women ringed with dead bodies) I took some anti-depressant drugs and read the text of the article. Buried toward the end, after the interviews with fashion designers and other wealthy people, was only a brief mention of the animal rights issues involved. One fur owner (not the original owner, unfortunately), when asked if she felt guilty, smiled from behind her coat of carnage and said, "I'm an animal lover."

"Oh gee," I wanted to tell her. "I didn't know. I guess that makes it all okay."


All this got me to thinking about all the self-proclaimed "animal lovers" in our society. Take John (warning: not a real person) for example. He might tell you he's an animal lover because he keeps three dogs, four cats, and some exotic birds locked up all day in his tiny house. Marge would want you to know she's an animal lover too, because she's always doting on Fufi, her toy poodle with the trick haircut and spandex jogging suit. (Fufi is so neurotic by this time that she'd agree.) George is definitely an animal lover because he spends big bucks stocking the private lake where he fishes during the summer.

None of this impresses us vegetarians. We know that eating animals is the A#1, super primo, meanest thing we do to them. Try as we might, it's hard to take meat eaters seriously when they tell us they love animals. That's true even if they are otherwise doing some wonderful and good things. It's not that they're bad people, it's just that they don't make the connection. It might be more accurate to say that they love animals under certain limited circumstances. They compartmentalize their feelings.

When it comes to treating animals well one minute and hideously the next, humans are as fickle as can be. On the one hand we torture and kill cats and dogs in our medical laboratories, but on the other hand we pamper them as our pets, and spend big bucks on their medical care. On the third hand (wait, I'm running out of hands!) we train the people who provide that medical care by doing more hideous experiments on cats and dogs. That certainly makes sense, doesn't it?

Every time I think we vegetarians could put an end to this madness, I'm reminded of how many of us feed meat to our pets. Yeah, sometimes we conveniently compartmentalize our ethics just like everyone else. Once I even met a vegetarian whose whole reason for changing his diet was that he'd spent his career experimenting on animals and he wanted to make up for some of his sins by not eating them. No kidding.

As for folks like John, Marge, George, and the woman in the fur coat, there's a communications problem out there too. Unfortunately the English language is not precise enough to distinguish "love," as in "I will love, help and protect you," from "love," as in "I love how you make me feel powerful," or "I love how you taste." I, for one, wouldn't mind it if someone could coin a few new words that would make this distinction. Any volunteers?

This kind of communication problem brings to mind the old Twilight Zone episode about the aliens who came to earth and were very nice to us lowly earthlings. They'd even written a book entitled To Serve Man.

Our "encounters of the third kind" with these aliens were going really well until one fateful day. That was the day we finally figured out that To Serve Man was a cookbook.

I guess those aliens were "human lovers" the way some humans are "animal lovers."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You hit it right on the head! I don't believe in relative morality or situational ethics, but sometimes it takes an epiphany to put see the irrationality of our choices. I read your book and made plenty of connections while (and since) reading it.