It’s been a while since I ranted, so I figure it’s due. Lucky you, right? As is often the case, anything to do with animal cruelty can send me off on a tangent. So, humor me as I climb up on my soap box to hopefully open a few eyes… or at least, start a conversation.
From centerpieces to carnival prizes, animals are increasingly exploited as a novelty or decoration. The direct physical abuse and killing of animals is an issue at the forefront of many people’s minds (as it should be) but there is an entire world of cruelty that is mostly ignored, or, if we’re being honest, doesn’t even register to most people as abuse.
I’ve seen fish – goldfish and bettas – languishing in brandy snifters or decorative bowls that are far too small to support them so that they can serve as a fancy centerpiece for weddings. What an excellent conversation starter! “Why is that fish swimming upside down, Mommy?” They are literally suffocating in their own filth and contaminated water in teeny tiny containers so that drunken guests can have a distraction. Contrary to what pet stores will tell you, bettas aren’t meant to live in small spaces. And those lovely tea lights floating over the heads of the fish? Oh yeah, you find those in their natural habitat don’t ya know. And what happens to the fish after the wedding? I can’t imagine it’s anything good. But ohhhh, look how lovely the table is!
Along with goldfish, lizards are commonly given away as prizes at carnivals. During the run of the carnival, they are left in plastic cages filled with a hundred or more lizards in god-awful heat and not much shade and then are handed out indiscriminately to whoever happens to have good aim. They suffer throughout the carnival season and then go home to god knows what with god knows who. Lizards are not usually “easy keepers” and need specific food, habitats, etc., at an expense … if you want the lizard to thrive, that is. The kids who win these sentient prizes often lose interest in their new pets, as kids are wont to do, and the animals are then left to suffer away in their bowls until they eventually die – slowly – from neglect. Or, they are abandoned in the backyard … I mean, they’re lizards after all, they should be fine! And those left over after the carnival? Dumped in the trash. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me as if to say, “Oh no, they would never do that!” I’ve seen it. The whole process is horrendous and unacceptable.
Another thing that pisses me off is when people decide to rent animals for their wedding or other momentous occasion as photo props, because, you know… aesthetics. Sure, it’s “your day” but what the hell does that have to do with the white caribou posed alongside you in your wedding portraits? Nothing, that’s what.
Specialty businesses allow people to rent everything from monkeys to caribou to foxes (and everything else, and yes, I mean everything: lynxes, macaws, you name it) and forcing them into unfamiliar and frightening situations. Yes, I get it. You read a lot of Dr. Seuss as a kid, but that fox does not want to be in that boat, and Horton the elephant does see and hear who is mistreating it.
Don’t even get me started on “white dove” releases. However, if you have a minute, I suggest you read this article from The Dodo which is much better written than anything I could hope to do.
For the most part, these animals don’t live great lives as the companies that supply them see them only as an income driving tool – nothing more. They are only a means to an end and when they’ve fulfilled their purpose and no longer line their owner’s pockets with money, there is only more suffering awaiting them as they are then sent to auction, or worse.
Of the many possible horrors that await an animal auctioned or sold off after leading a life already so full of suffering, captive hunts (aka canned hunting) is only one example. If you’re unfamiliar with canned hunting, it is a trophy hunt where animals are kept within fenced enclosures where they stand no possible chance of escaping only to be hunted by humans. The animals found at these canned hunting ranches are typically accustomed to humans and are often purchased from private breeders or owners that hold a surplus of animals from zoos, circuses, or the lovely little “animal encounter” businesses we’ve been discussing. Frequently these animals have been raised and socialized around humans their whole lives and are therefore unafraid of humans… even having been taught and encouraged to expect food when they see someone.
My point is, there is a very important conversation to be had about the treatment of animals that goes far beyond their presence on our dinner plates. We need to think about the way we use animals for our own selfish needs, find the wrong in what we’re doing, and actively work to change it. The first step in the process is simply identifying the problem and, unfortunately, that seems to be the hardest part for so many.
“It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” ~ Joaquin Phoenix