News that a Hamilton woman was successfully prosecuted for animal cruelty, specially delighted me. Why? Because the victims were gold fish in a tank which she apparently murdered while throwing a tantrum.
Our relationship with animals is full of awkward inconsistencies. But one thing’s evident and that is our irrational differing responses are based singularly on size. Elephants and whales are admired and protected. Fish and insects evidently don’t count. Sizeism is the illogical determination.
I have a large sign on a Lambton Quay building reading, “Save the krill, kill whales”, not to be a smart alec but to make the sizeism point. There’s no greater murderer than whales, daily knocking off millions of krill, all who have aunts, sisters, mothers etc and are harmlessly gambolling.
Some years ago the Rome City Council rightly banned goldfish bowls on cruelty grounds for confining a living creature to such a tiny space.
Worse are small indoor birdcages housing a budgie or canary. Those birds have wings for a reason. The cages should be illegal.
But as said this issue is tricky. The great passion of my life has been fly‑fishing but now, reluctantly, on cruelty grounds I’ve flagged it although I still look yearningly at rivers.
Playing a large Tongariro trout for half an hour in rushing waters, before exhausted, it finally succumbs, is no different than say hooking up a calf and playing it in a paddock with a strong salmon rod. Do that and you will be prosecuted but not so behaving identically with a trout. Size again is the determining factor.
To that people point to catch and release. Well every Tongariro river angler has witnessed released dead five pounders floating in the shallows. A trout that size can take 20 to 30 minutes to land, then once released, often is so traumatised, it subsequently dies of shock. Not so smaller fish as they take less time to land.
India regularly faces this dilemma when an ageing tiger, no longer able to catch its conventional prey, starts scoffing villagers. Tigers are protected (sizeism again) so what to do? The answer seems clear given there’s a massive surplus of Indians and an alleged shortage of tigers. Let them carry on eating and help solve the over-population problem.
So too in Africa with hippos which in the dry season, rampage on land and kill several hundred villagers annually. But they’re protected. A few years ago I wandered into a village on the shores of Lake Malawi. Everyone was excited for that day a Government ranger was due, to knock off a rogue hippo which had killed some of them. Mind you, from what they said I think they were more excited at the promised feasting awaiting, hoeing in to the hippo once it was nailed.
To the extent our economy is based on meat production, it can be equally said to be based on mass murder. In another 30 years, it’s widely predicted meat‑eating will be redundant, primarily on global warming grounds. I’ve tasted the artificial meats now widely available in American supermarkets’ vegan sections. They have it mastered and one cannot tell the difference from the real thing.
It’s a pity that global warming has driven this development, rather than blatant animal cruelty.