Tag Archives: animals

Tom Regan

I am catching up here on things about which I should have posted earlier – for example, the death of animal advocate Tom Regan, someone who has been a big influence on my thinking. One of my favourite Regan quotes:

Because we have viewed other animals through the myopic lens of our self-importance, we have misperceived who and what they are. Because we have repeated our ignorance, one to the other, we have mistaken it for knowledge.

Check out his library here.

Cemetery Cats: Rome

There is a managed colony of stray and feral cats living in Rome’s Protestant Cemetery. I think they like being near the pyramid: reminds them of when they were gods. I have many pics of them, including some here at my Flickr page (if this is not public, forgive me) and here at my National Geographic page (it definitely is public). I’ll start with a few and post more in days to come.

Long-haired beauty.

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Calico beauty (if you look at my old photos from the links above, you will see that this kitty has been thriving at the cemetery for a few years).

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Kitty on a tomb, using it to get up into a tree.

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Kitty in the tree.

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Colorado, 2006: Wolf and Deer

From 2006, when I was at a conference in Colorado Springs. (Neither shot is great, but they are associated with fond memories.) I ducked out of most of the conference when I found out there was a wolf preserve nearby. I remember how fast they moved, and how hard it was to get a shot. This blessed fellow stopped for about three seconds, though, and looked in my general direction.
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This was taken from a taxi. The driver knew I loved animals (we had been chatting) and he slowed down ever so briefly when he spotted these two on the side of the road.
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Default Positions

I was thinking about default positions, and how they seem mired in very low expectations of humans. For example, this tragic story at the Cincinnati Zoo where Harambe was killed (unnecessarily, it would seem). The parents of the boy involved are responsible, I think, and in a perfect world they would be charged with reckless endangerment. (And yes, I know there is the even bigger issue of whether animals should be in zoos at all. I’ll save that for another time.) That said, what I have found very disturbing in the aftermath of this tragedy are the masses of people saying stuff like, “kids wander off! It happens!” Or “it’s hard to keep your eyes on your kids, you know!” And then there are the defensive (and probably crappy) parents who say, “Well I guess you’re a perfect parent, then!”

Um, no. It isn’t about being a perfect parent or about not understanding that kids can wander off. But there is a world of difference between your kid wandering off and your kid jumping into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. It seems to me that if you are at a busy, crowded place like a zoo (a place which keeps enclosed wild and dangerous animals) with a young child — your young child — you might want to be, oh, I don’t know, extra vigilant. And yet the default position here is, “Oh well, parents aren’t perfect. Kids run off! No big deal.” The default position should be that we expect vigilance — not negligence — from parents.

It reminds me of the people who say that since they don’t know what they would have done in, say, Nazi Germany, we can’t or shouldn’t criticize people who turned in their neighbours or looked away from the horrors. In other words, the accepted default position for humans is moral bankruptcy. I find this profoundly depressing.

Along similar lines, Mark Steyn wrote about this in regards the Montreal Massacre — why did the men that the murderer ordered out of the lecture hall that day meekly leave?

There’s an expression about ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations,’ an expression which refers to the tendency of the regressive left to make excuses for certain groups of people when they commit crimes, for example. We saw a lot of that nonsense after the Charlie Hebdo massacre (my column on this very topic here). But it also could be said to describe how little we expect of ourselves in so many ways. Our default positions should not be that negligence is understandable or that cowardice and moral bankruptcy are the sorry spots to which we are naturally destined.

The Cow Who…

Meant to post this a while back, but stuff (travels, colds, work) got in the way.  A few weeks ago, Peter Singer wrote about the New York Times’ use of the word “who” in regards a cow, rather than “that” or “which.” To me, it doesn’t seem odd to use “who” regarding an animal, as animals are not only sentient beings, but individuals. Nor is it odd to Singer, though he points out that the Times‘ decision was not the great step forward some of us might like to see.

It would be premature to conclude that the New York Times article indicates a shift in usage. Rather, it seems to show uncertainty, for the first line of the article refers to “A cow that was captured by police.”

I asked Philip Corbett, the standards editor for the New York Times, if the use of “cow who” reflected a change of policy. He told me that the Times style manual, like that of the Associated Press, suggested using “who” only for a named or personified animal. The manual gives the example “The dog, which was lost, howled” and contrasts this with “Adelaide, who was lost, howled.”

I find this noteworthy, not just because I am an animal rights advocate, but because I had a conflict — not a big one — with an editor years ago when I wrote about a whale for the Christian Science Monitor. I referred to the whale as “he,” first of all, and I also referred to the whale’s uncle. Both of these things bothered the editor with whom I was dealing, although she heard me out and graciously printed the article the way I had wanted (for the most part). Newspapers have their style guidelines, and they have to be heeded to a point. They can change, though, as views change.

As Singer writes:
In a language like English, which implicitly categorizes animals as things rather than persons, adopting the personal pronoun would embody the same recognition – and remind us who animals really are.