Monday, July 31, 2017
Nicholas Reid reflects in essay form on general matters and ideas related to literature, history, popular culture and the arts, or just life in general. You are free to agree or disagree with him.
LOVE ANIMALS BUT DON’T DESPISE HUMAN BEINGS
Long ago on this blog (February 2014, to be precise) I wrote a piece called Leo Hates Me, which set out how I feel about cats. I admitted that I have always had a pet cat, that I admire the grace and beauty of cats, and that I enjoy the illusion of companionship they give, even if my rational brain tells me that no cat would stick around for long if it were not fed.
I love sharing the universe with cats, as I love sharing it with other species. The variety of the animal kingdom gives me great delight.
But I made it very clear that cats are not human beings and therefore should not be anthropomorphised by the sentimental. A cat is a cat. A dog is a dog. And a human being is a human being. We reach our own fullness as human beings only in the way we react to, and interrelate with, our own kind.
Recently, a dog-lover posted on Facebook an article written by a psychiatrist about what a great and enriching thing it was to have a “deep and lasting relationship” with an animal.
I shuddered, as I always do when I see such tosh.
I do not believe in inflicting pain on animals. I believe in treating animals with respect and – as much as we can – allowing them to live their lives. But I do not confuse any relationship with an animal (short of bestiality) as real intimacy. To spell out the bleeding obvious, the cat or the dog has a different brain structure and capacity from the human being, does not see the universe as human beings do, does not interpret the universe as human beings do, and does not feel what human beings feel. (Please note, dear carper, that I did not say the animal does not think or feel – I said it does not do these things as a human being does.)
Of course I can see what a great comfort it is to children, and to the old and infirm, to have what passes for a “relationship” with a pet animal. I know that there are thousands of pensioners and widows who derive great joy from the company of Puss or Rover, and there’s no harm in that. I am also aware that studies have shown what pleasure the chronically ill take in pets. Should my time come to be bedridden or heading for death, I would be delighted to have a comforting cat purring on my bedspread as I stroked her or him.
Not for the first time, however, I am forced to note that dog-lovers tend to be most prone to anthropomorphising sentimentality about their pets, perhaps because dogs (unlike cats) tend to be obedient, servile and order-obeying creatures –and can therefore delude their owners into thinking that they are in synch with them. One neurotic of my ken refers to her pets dogs as “my little people”, and seems to think they really are.
And here comes my real beef in these matters.
To upgrade animals as our emotional equals always tends towards degrading the unique inportance of human beings. Animals as a substitute for human intimacy easily curdles into regarding other human beings as only animals.
I think of one devoted dog-lover (and vegetarian) who had a “deep and lasting relationship” with a dog, but wasn’t so hot with human beings.
Yes, for many years Adolf really did love his Blondi.