Friday 8 February 2008

Give the gift of life this Valentine’s Day - liberate an animal!


Every year the arrival of Valentine’s Day divides us into two self-indulgent and equally unattractive camps.
There are those cupply-wupply types who become lost in a misty fug of lurrrrve, staring dewy-eyed into each others’ eyes as they revel and indulge in nauseatingly treacle orgies of luvvy-duvvyness, tonsil tennis and dry humping, oblivious (or perhaps, only too aware) that they are very much in public, thus inflicting their swapping of goo-goo shnooby-dooby-cutey-pooty-wooty pet names on all us others, forced to look on whilst desperately trying to look elsewhere.
Then there are the humbugs, the grouches, both single and married, tethered and adrift, for whom spontaneous romantic behaviour is as alien as truth to Fianna Fail ministers. They stand arms folded, huffing puffing and snorting their contempt at the tackiness of it all; the massive waste of time and money involved; the selfish exclusive cruelty of our couple-oriented society.
Now, however, we can jettison that unhappy brace of attitudinal stances. We can leave behind the issue of whether you are in love with another human or not.
All you need to do is get a pet, and send it a Valentine instead.
It is no coincidence that around Valentine’s Day, the personal columns are full of messages that read like:
‘Bear seeks Small Burrowing Creature’.
‘She-Puppy loves Big Doggy-Woggy’
We have to say out loud and pretend inside that we want a partner who is all human, but really, what many people seek is a pet; something that will ask nothing but to be loved, upon which we can then project our dreams and ambitions.
Despite the threat posed by ‘Intelligent Design’, we in Western Europe have stuck firmly to our belief that we are nowt but animals. Naturally, we’re not any old animal.
We’re a highly-developed mammal with a stuttering consciousness and maybe even a soul.
But animals we are, and thus fulfilling our natural propensity for being a pair-bonding species, we love each other.
So it’s no surprise that we love other animals, and choose to ‘own’ them, and keep them as pets.
And boy, do we love our pets? In 2007, Americans spent an estimated €33.42 billion on their pets, more than the gross domestic product of about 120 nations.
So decadent has the West become that one of the best-selling items on a top pet gift website was an exceptionally vulgar-sounding ‘$250 crystal-encrusted dog collar made from python skins with a matching $190 leash.
Beyond the price lies the evident and unsettling truth that some folk have lost sight of their priorities. Check out the baloney in this advert and the follow-up customer testimonial from another website, offering more moderately-priced pet gifts:
“Small animals instinctively depend on hiding as a natural form of defense. Your pets will feel more comfortable and relaxed when you provide them a cozy spot to hide, cuddle up and rest. Pamper your pet with a plush pillow-soft place to sleep. Critter Cuddl-E-Cup is the only foam-free bed created to be super safe for your favourite furry friend. It's the perfect place for your pet to nap, rest and nest!”
Customer gm22 responds: My bunny loves this!
"My little boy bunny loves his cuddle cup! He sleeps in it all day! I love it because I know it's nice and comfortable for him. Also machine washable!"
The first time I read that I had a vision of her happy dappy super-nappy bunny wunny staring terrified and wide-eyed out at me from behind the glass of the washing machine door as it spun around at 1200 rpm, foaming swirls of Persil, Oxy-Poxy stain remover and saffron-flavoured Comfort fabric conditioner shooting up and into its orifices at all ends.
Then I realised that she was talking about washing her Critter Cuddl-E-Cupp.
Then I thought about that Critter Cuddl-E-Cupp, which aspires to ape a natural place for a small creature to sleep, and I wondered how incredibly stupid we can be, where other species are concerned.
Mostly hardy beasts, they evolved to do nothing but survive. Homo Sapiens may play a dominant role on this living planet, but we are nowhere near being the strongest, fastest, hardiest or most remarkable animal around. We should therefore stop talking down to ‘little critters’, and award them the respect they deserve.
For starters, there are more of them than us. There are over 200 million insects for each and every one of us humans. And it’s not just about numbers.
Sure we have our famous opposable thumbs, and so can pick up a spanner and lop the top off a boiled egg, but can we freeze our heads?
If yer Chinese alligator couldn’t freeze his bonce in a ball of ice for months on end, he’d never make it through winter.
Butterflies taste through their hind feet. Mouse sperm are longer than elephant sperm and mice testes are some of the largest around (around what, one wonders?).
Snails can sleep for 3 years to survive drought, (enjoying benefit even without actively seeking employment) and lions can get it on with lionesses 50 times a day, when they are in the mood.
Most incredible, to me at least, are the albatrosses, emperors of the skies, who only land once every couple of years, when they need to breed. Swooping over the world’s oceans, they can travel hundreds of thousands of miles on each flight.
So no, I don’t think your poochy-woochy is a lesser being. Yes, we have our good points, as do all other species, and therefore, if we feel we deserve to be lavished with love, why would other animals deserve less?
I don’t think your pet ferret really needs a Critter Cuddl-E-Cup. Consider this: were you to be extracted from this planet and kept as a pet by aliens in a galaxy far far away, which would you prefer? To be swamped with fluffy pink gifts that betray a gush of misguided love and misplaced affection, or simply, to be set free?
Go on, forget the girlfriend, wife, hubby or man in your life. Show how much love you have in your heart: give the gift of life this Valentine’s Day, and liberate your animal.
Return Fido unto the woods. Put Petey the Python down the drain. Leave Gerry the Gerbil in a field, and let nature take its course.
What gift can be greater than freedom? Beats the hell out of chocolates and champagne!

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