The whole issue of the possibly disproportionate affection we lavish on puppies and other cute creatures has become less vexing to me since coming across this book:
I must confess that I haven't yet read the book: the cover is enough to comfort me. It says, in the first place, that we tend to love puppies. hate rats and eat pigs; and the sub-title makes the point that it just is difficult to
be consistent about animals.
The anti-animal rights people have it all their way, logically speaking: 'So you're opposed to hunting, but you buy your meat at the supermarket?' Or: 'So you don't eat meat, but you wear leather shoes?' Or 'You don't eat meat or wear leather shoes but swat at flies and mosquitoes?' And so on. In the end, the only consistent position is to kill and eat everything in sight, as our forefathers did. And if an ageing Chinese Romeo is in need of an aid to potency, is a rhino too high a price to pay?
I've decided that consistency is for the birds, as it were: if the sight of Sarah Palin with a hunting rifle somehow sickens me, I'll go with my nausea and forget that I had some biltong not so long ago; if I want to avoid eating meat as far as possible, I'll do so, without feeling I've somehow failed in a vow if for social reasons I do eat meat. And if I spend more money on Simon than I have lately donated to charity -- well, I'll try to up my charitable donations, but I'm not going to starve Simon.
Absolute consistency may be the prerogative of saints and martyrs. Ordinary mortals just have too many contradictory claims on their affections and their time. Consider the case of Elizabeth Costello, JM Coetzee's stand-in (not to say alter ego) in The Lives of Animals and other works:
embarrassment. The whole visit is somehow distressing to all concerned. It would seem (though I'm not claiming that that is what Coetzee is 'trying to say') that such consistency as Mrs Costello's comes at a price in human relations: our 'sympathetic identification' with other species alienates us from our own.
The old adage 'Love me, love my dog' is the dog-lover's declaration of fealty to the non-human, and a challenge to other humans: you're going to have to put up with my dog or otherwise jeopardise my friendship. But it cuts both ways: you may end up with only your dog for company, which not even the most canophilic of us would really want. Which is, once again, an argument against consistency. In practice, yes, we expect our friends to indulge our indulgence of our dogs; but we do also try to accommodate those friends who really don't like dogs. As long as they don't expect us to lock out our dogs when they come to visit.
Fortunately for our friendships and our inter-species relations alike, many of our friends actually like our dogs:
That is, I hope that is affection. On the photo it's indistinguishable from cruelty to animals. Which opens another can of worms ...
P.S. But then, I don't expect my friends to love my dog without any return on their investment: they needn't go hungry so Simon may eat.