[…] But browsing for cute images online does not translate into offline kindness. Animal cruelty and abandonment are at record levels in Britain, in particular as a consequence of owners who can no longer afford to keep pets in a recession. Animal rescue charities are overwhelmed, and at a time when donations are also under pressure.
It is a human convenience to make distinctions between lovable companions and supper, as the recent scandal over horse meat in burgers illuminated. Likewise, we draw comfortable lines between foreign outrages and domestic necessity. We abhor bullfighting in Spain, or whaling in Japan, while continuing to eat eggs from hens that have spent their short lives crammed into cages.
Meanwhile, we are surprised when animals actually act like animals, whether that be scavenging our dustbins and bird tables or, in extremis, attacking a human being. This shock reveals a grandiose assumption that animals are simply less sophisticated versions of ourselves.
Honestly, Peta’s ads make me so angry I could stamp on a kitten. While eating a Big Mac and wearing chinchilla. If this has offended you, then I should make clear that my tongue is very firmly in my cheek. Which, funnily enough, was precisely the excuse Peta’s associate director of campaigns and outreach proffered when confronted with the criticism that the organisation’s latest ad, Boyfriend went vegan, all but condones physical violence within a relationship. After all, if sex sells, hard sex sells harder, and the sort of sex that leaves you hospitalised sells hardest of all.