The murder of a dolphin selfied to death on an Argentine beach poses some awkward questions about our own relationship to animals.
Today ‘animal lovers’ all over Britain will once again be selectively enraged. ‘Look!’ they’ll say, chomping down on their bacon sarnie. ‘Look what those filthy Argies are doing to that dolphin!’ they’ll splutter as the latest mouthful of chicken, pork, horse or other unidentifiable fragment of an erstwhile living creature is popped lovingly into their mouths. ‘Look at what those bastards are up to now! How could anyone treat an animal so badly?’ as another huge hunk of sausage is pierced and readied with the fork.
This hypocrisy is constructed around a cornerstone of the national myth: say what you like about the average Briton, but they love their animals. Except they don’t.
This idea of Britain as a welfarist haven where people are at once concerned about the provenance and quality of life experienced by whatever livestock has been horrifically butchered on their behalf, while simultaneously reviled at the abuse of animals by other (read: foreign) people, serves an obvious function.
This absurd fallacy elevates the Brits above other nations, enabling us to feel superior to the Greeks, Muslims, Chinese or Nepalese. The latter nations’ ritualistic murder of dogs at Yulin and a menagerie of other unfortunate animals during the Gadhimai festival caused an outcry on social media, but neither were really all that far removed from the average UK abattoir. Only we like to believe they are. Feeling a notch above the rest of the world is something we have centuries of practice at and it conveniently allows us to forgo examining our own immoral treatment of animals.
As well as self-righteously confirming us as above reproach, it reassures us that our warped relationship to non-human creatures is perfectly acceptable. How can there be anything wrong with murdering a cow, as long as you stun it? Who cares if we feed live male baby chicks into a grinder or suffocate them at birth because they have no commercial value? We’re British, so we can be sure that’s all perfectly ethical, because we’re not some Greek or Muslim or Chinese or Nepalese barbarians. We love our animals.
It’s a prime example of the alarming reality that for the selfie-generation value is linked solely to something’s perceived currency on social media, its event-potential. Any irregular occurrence, no matter how fantastic or seemingly worthy of exposure, has no intrinsic worth in and of itself.
The wonder of witnessing a dolphin up close or even the creature’s distress didn’t register, as enjoyment was no longer to be found by being in the presence of one of the most intelligent mammals on the planet. Something which, along with its perceived cuteness, is ordinarily enough to guarantee it protected status amongst humans, who are content to kill and destroy almost anything else.
We see how the dolphin was discarded the moment it succumbed to the crowd’s cruelty. No longer an event or a social media phenomenon, no further ‘lols’. A dead dolphin is not quite as funny as a live one.
Yet, selfies aside, this isn’t any worse an animal rights catastrophe than you’d witness in the average slaughterhouse. Unless you class slitting animals’ throats and hanging them upside down to bleed out as humane. I doubt all but the sickest amongst you would selfie to such a macabre backdrop.
Indeed, if offered the choice between dying of shock as a crowd held me aloof and photographed me into an early grave or having my jugular vein slashed open as I was violently upended, I know which I’d pick. And I think you do, too.
So, if you are one of those aforementioned animal lovers, who prefer your dogs uneaten, then I would urge you to look again at that video of the dying dolphin, study it carefully, and then maybe watch the ten minute animal agriculture short Farm to Fridge, and honestly ask yourself who is more deserving of condemnation?