Category Archives: anthropomorphism

The roots of animal rights fanaticism

A factor in the rise of the animal rights movement, writes Dalrymple, is

the absence of any contact between the great majority of mankind and animals, except for those animals that are kept for pets and that are increasingly anthropomorphised by their owners.

He points out that the movement is

an urban phenomenon, of people who have no daily contact with or knowledge of cows or pigs or sheep, as those concerned with animal husbandry do, and who might not much care for them if they did.

The only model most people have of relations with animals

is that which they have with their cat or dog, and they use it as a model or template for what they think all relations with animals should be.

The fanatic beliefs of the animal rights advocates, which often result in aggressive — even murderous — behaviour

are symptomatic of the decline in religious belief, for which they are a substitute. Without strong convictions, there can be no sense of purpose. And since we all need a sense of purpose, at least once we are freed from any real precariousness as far as physical survival is concerned, we adopt strong convictions to fill the vacuum and give us that purpose that is larger than the flux of day-to-day existence can provide.

Dalrymple loved his dog this side of idolatry

忠犬ハチ公 — Hachikō the faithful hound (1923-35)

Of course Dalrymple anthropomorphised his late dog. His dog was Dalrymple’s companion, Dalrymple was never lonely or unhappy in his dog’s company, Dalrymple loved his dog and believed that his dog loved him.

Dalrymple’s dog

  • had his moods and he understood Dalrymple’s
  • went to sleep when Dalrymple slept
  • hated it when Dalrymple left him
  • was a dog of taste inasmuch as he far preferred human food to the slop normally served up to dogs
  • was playful but knew when to be serious

Dalrymple

didn’t mind the vet’s fees in the least; on the contrary, I was pleased to pay them, I was pleased rather than angry or disdainful when I was recorded as his father in the vet’s records, and I certainly didn’t regard myself as his owner—our relationship was far too equal for that. In fact, our relationship was so perfect that I never considered what kind of relationship it was.

Dalrymple’s dog was

exceptional, not to say unprecedented: intelligent, expressive, gifted. I draw no general or universally valid conclusions from his existence, any more than I would from that of Leonardo da Vinci.