400 legs good, 200 legs bad

March 25th, 2007
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“100 DEAD COWS” blared the headline across the front page of last Thursday’s Ottawa Sun. Apparently a fire had destroyed part of a farm in the region, leading to the untimely demise of scores of dairy cattle. A sad thing.

Earlier last week the Vancouver Sun reported a strange interlude in the grim Pickton murder trial (Thanks to Jeem M. for finding the link). An investigating officer apparently broke into tears while describing the severe neglect Pickton’s pigs had suffered on the farm. Of course Pickton’s alleged victims were more than just neglected.

Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, three young ladies stripped down in protest over the seal hunt. Friday’s Globe showed the plucky young lasses baring much for the cause. They have, no doubt, well laid plans of alternative employment for the many Atlantic Canadians who earn their living culling part of the enormous seal herds every year. The other big story of the day was the poisoning of numerous pets by tainted food, the outrage and the threatened class action lawsuits leading from same.

As the cows dominated page one of the Sun, there was an article on the back page (A14) of the National Post’s first section stating that 100 people had been killed during clashes on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Clearly, one hundred local pigs trump 100 people in a far away country we know little about.

All these tid bits tell us something seemingly innate in human nature – the ability to generate outrage over cruelty to animals concurrent with our apparent indifference to much human suffering. Some of this has to do with our perception that animals are “innocent” while humans, as conscious agents of violence, are less deserving of our pity.

However, numerous examples point to a deeper current of post-modern misanthropy, particularly in attitudes toward the environment. There’s the example of the female jogger in California who was killed by a cougar, leaving her children orphaned. The animal was caught and destroyed, leaving orphaned cubs. If reports are correct, more money was donated to the welfare of the cubs than to the orphaned children.

There is also the tendancy, as related in this story about Bjorn Lomborg, to generate more “commitment” to address climate change than to tackle HIV, or even the lack of clean water in Africa. The latter must be too pedestrian, too practical, too demanding of us to simply roll up our sleeves and do something. It’s easier to muse in the abstract than dig a well.

On a related topic, two grade ten students from my daughters’ school were hit by a drunk/drugged driver the week before last. One girl has severely broken legs, the other suffered head injuries so serious she was placed into an induced coma. She will need multiple surgeries to reconstruct her face. Concern about mistreated animals is admirable but, for those of our readers who pray, please keep these girls in your prayers.

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