All across my life, but most frequently now because of my books, I have met people who tell me how much they are ‘into’ animals. They will happily extol the virtues of our four legged friends, marvel at the companionship they provide, regale me with tales of the wisdoms they have gleaned from their relationships with our four legged friends, and let me know just how important they believe our connections with them are.
Perhaps above all else, it is vital for them to establish the difference being such an 'animal lover' makes to them in regard to the rest of society. If elevates is the wrong word, then certainly they realise that it sets them apart. They, unlike the rest of society, ‘get’ just how vital a role our furry companions play in our lives, and how important to is to reciprocate that unquestioning love that they give. And all of these things when put together, earn them the qualification or right to call themselves ‘animal lovers’.
I think it’s great. I empathise with them totally and I understand just where they're coming from. But there's that little bit of devilishness in me that always makes it irresistible for me to ask “So are you a vegetarian then?” And do you know what? Nine times out of ten the answers is a faltering “Er, no.” Sometimes it’s followed by an excuse, sometimes a rationalisation, and most often by a “No, but I don’t eat red meat anymore” or a “I only eat fish now”.
I know that these people only want to tell me about their great love for animals because they want to let me know that we’re on ‘the same team’. They want to demonstrate their empathy for what is written in the books and establish a form of kindred spirit type of rapport between us; and I appreciate that, I really do. But it doesn’t stop me from pointing out that there's a great deal of hypocrisy in claiming to be an animal lover whilst you are still prepared to eat them. How can you claim to love animals when you only extend that emotion to those called ‘pets’, and not to those you call ‘food’?
Are you not put off eating meat by the hideous barbarity involved in the mindless slaughter of billions of innocent creatures every year? Or don’t you know about that? Or do you just not want to know? Or are you simply deciding to turn a blind eye? And if so, do you think that’s OK?
There’s a wonderful quote from Edward Sanchez that says: “Once you come to terms with why you don’t eat cats, dogs, monkeys and dolphin, you begin to understand why I don’t eat cows, pigs, chickens and lambs.” It’s important for each and every individual to reflect upon those thoughts and not look away from the conclusions they draw, however unpleasant, unsettling and life changing they could prove to be.
If you are a carnivore or pescatarian and still think of yourself as an animal lover, and this reflection doesn't make you think again and change your ingrained eating habits, then you may need to dispossess yourself of the “animal lover” designation.
Sorry. There’s no way to rationalise your way out of this one (unless out-and-out self-deception is your thing).