April 21, 2007

"The Year of the Dog"

From my review in The American Conservative:

"The Year of the Dog," with Saturday Night Live veteran Molly Shannon as a spinster secretary looking for love, sounds like just another romantic comedy, such as "The Truth about Cats and Dogs" or "Must Love Dogs." Yet, this sympathetic portrayal of the making of an animal rights activist / pest turns out to be one of the odder and more memorable movies of the year so far....

PETA fanatics are the one sort of progressive that everybody loves to look down upon. After Dutch immigration restrictionist Pim Fortuyn was gunned down in 2002, the European center-left establishment immediately proclaimed (wrongly, as it turned out) that their vilification of anti-immigrationists had nothing to do with Fortuyn's murder. The assassin was just some animal rights loony!

And yet, the animal rights cause is likely to triumph partially. As the world gets richer, the worst abuses of factory farming will become less tolerable. Moreover, while we deplore Koreans' taste for dog, hardheaded Paul Johnson has suggested that our descendents won't understand how we complacently devoured the comparably intelligent pig. Too bad they're so tasty …

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Molly said...

Are pigs smarter than dogs?

James said...

The difference Paul Johnson: dogs are supposed to be pets; pigs are supposed to be bacon.

the wily marmot said...

There must a good reason why our ancient ancestors chose the dog as as hunting companion and guard rather than the pig. Both the domesticated dog and the domestic pig originated, I believe, in SE Asia.

Russell said...

Dogs vs. pigs in the present day is a no-brainer. Dogs are intensely sympathetic to humans. They were domesticated at least partially for their ability to identitfy with us. That's whey, when you die, your dog will likely guard your corpse and go through some externally obvious mourning(-like) process. A pig doesn't relate to humans anymore than it relates to a stump, and would just eat your dead body.

Indeed, this raises the question as to why anyone likes cats, as what I said about pigs is to a large extent true about them as well.

the wily marmot said...

I've seen programs on Animal Planet where pet pig owners claimed that the pigs had a doglike relationship with them. How much of this is BS I don't know. I also don't know enough about the social life of wild pigs to know if they replicate the basic human family structure as closely as dogs and wolves do.

Just trying to keep an open mind;I own two dogs and would never consider buying a pig-except to eat.

Anonymous said...

I saw a bumper sticker once that said: "I am a member of PETA"

Underneath the larger print declaritive sentence, there was another sentence that one could see when their car got closer. It said:

"People who Eat Tasty Animals"

I always ruminated that the driver of that car was really risking getting their car keyed, or better yet, their gas tank "sugared", which will pretty much ruin an engine. I say this because I know how devout some animal rights folks are, and how one might not like rubbing their nose in our love of steak, chicken, and bacon.

I don't think any free people will convert to veganism in masses, but I do think people would be appalled if they knew how badly animals are treated on factory farms, even if they are pigs, chickens, and cows. Its just wrong. Getting this collective "will" to legislation with our current very faulty two-party hegemony might prove a herculean task though.

Udolpho said...

The factory farm is a nasty business, but then so is the average call center. We should focus on dehumanizations of humans before we worry about the dehumanization of animals.

Russell, cats have a very sympathetic relationship with their masters (i.e. the person they imprint on). They sleep with them, present prey to them, and purr in their laps (which may actually have therapeutic value). They are very social with each other but in a way different from dogs. Cats are used to fending for themselves rather than relying on a family to provide for them. Hence they also require more vigorous play and stimulation as this is what they are "designed" for.

In my experience many people who own cats haven't the first clue about them.

Anonymous said...

What is interesting to me is how pets serve as a substitution for family.

In an age of high divorce rates, lack of affordable family formation, and lack of surplus women at all class levels, it seems as if this substitution is if anything increasing.

Demands of the modern economy seem anti-family, not just in America but all over the world where fertility rates drop. Greece and Italy and Spain have some of the lowest. But even China and Iran have dropped considerably, the latter below replacement rate.

Very likely IMHO people are adopting animals as family substitutes. Which is both IMHO PETA's strength and weakness.

Strength: people want family, will choose animals if a real family is unaffordable/unavailable.

Weakness: restrictions on pets and substitute family that PETA wants turns off their supporters.

TabooTruth said...

“We would be on shaky ground if we were to demand equality for blacks, women, and other groups of oppressed humans while denying equal consideration of nonhumans.”

“it would be dangerous to rest the case against racism and sexism on the belief that all significant differences are envoronmental in origin.”

“It should be obvious that the fundamental objections to racism and sexism...apply equally to speciesism.”

“If possessing a higher intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans for the same purpose?”

“the question is not ‘can they reason?’ nor ‘can they talk?’ but, ‘Can they suffer?”

“Just as people of color do not exist as resources for whites, or women for men, so other animals do not exist as resources for human beings.”

I don't think you can accept the general principles of human biodiversity, and also think humans are on some high platform, apart from animals. We are all part of darwin's universe. I am a vegetarian precisely because I also don't believe in slavery or the subjugation of women, though I acknowledge that certain races are more intelligent than others, just as humans are more intelligent than other species.

Udolpho said...

"I am a vegetarian precisely because I also don't believe in slavery or the subjugation of women"

Good luck raising your children as vegetarians. I hope that malnutrition does not render them too retarded to support themselves.

Grainger said...

It's a rare cat who will sleep under a blanket or eiderdown. It's on top or not at all. Dogs don't seem to care.

I miss my cat. I had to have her put down. Now, I like to stop in the street and stroke other cats.

SFG said...

Hey udolpho: the only thing you can't get from plants is vitamin B12 and that she can just give them supplements for. The most common cause of nutritionally induced retardation is iodine deficiency, which is why they always sell iodized salt over the counter.

Training her kids to stay away from meat, while making them annoying at parties, will also lower their chances of getting obesity, Type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, and God knows what else.

Russell said...

"I don't think you can accept the general principles of human biodiversity, and also think humans are on some high platform, apart from animals."

Huh? I just don't get that.

First of all, if you come to it from a religious perspective, the problem disappears. Your statement assumes atheism.

But even if you are an atheist, there are gobs of reasons why it's still a nonsequitur.

The most obvious one is that I don't think animals actually "suffer" in the sense that humans do. A useful distinction would be that they experience pain but not suffering, since one component of suffering is the consciousness of mortality and what the pain signifies.

corvinus said...

There is shocking levels of incompetence everywhere you turn, not just among the misguided tools who decided to invade Iraq.

To give just one example (Idiocracy fans will LOVE this):


Axolotl said...

"I don't think you can accept the general principles of human biodiversity, and also think humans are on some high platform, apart from animals."

I think this is true, but I don't understand the conclusions you draw from it. If you accept human biodiversity, you accept that humans are a species like any other, subject to natural selection and expressing phenotypic variation in different environments.

So why should humans, unlike every other species on earth, care about the feelings of prey items so much as to exclude large parts of their evolved diet? The huge increase in cranial mass was due to the boost in protein intake brought about by meat-eating. Other apes eat insects and small animals when available. Domestication of animals was also a great advantage, and allowed the further spread of humans. What predator wouldn't want to control their prey so as to be always available.

By saying that only humans, among all species, must treat members of other species - particularly long-standing prey species - as equal to possible blood relatives and potential mating partners, you are putting humans on a pedestal.

TabooTruth said...


I do assume atheism. I don't understand why a religious person would assume the evolutionary-intensive reasoning behind HBD. And many recent articles I discuss on my blog point to morality present in apes. Do you think retarted people or people from Equatorial Guinea (who have an IQ of 50) don't suffer if put in horrific conditions?

Malnutrition won't be an issue. I'll let my kids choose what they want to eat, anyway.


If you really accept HBD, then the differences between greater apes and (genetically) unintelligent humans starts to blur.

I'm not saying humans should treat animals equally, that's impossible. I'm just saying that we shouldn't prevent them from living their natural lives in their natural environments (raising them in factory farms isn't our evolutionary heritage, anyway)

What my main point it, is that everyone here believes slavery is wrong, right? Yet, because of white IQ superiority, it would be relatively easy to reinslave African Americans and Africans. However, we don't do that, even though we can. Same thing with animals - evolution put us on the top of the food chain, just as it put us on the top of the human pyramid. That doesn't mean we have to abuse those under us, though. If we really want to prove how great we are, we can prove it by not enslaving those below us.

Russell said...


I don't assume the reasoning behind HBD. I use it because it's scientifically supported. What this has to do with atheism vs. theism, I don't know. You seem to be assuming a lot of stuff.

Secondly, of course I don't think someone with an IQ of 50 can't suffer. What I doubt is whether a dog, chicken or cow can suffer. A person with an IQ of 50 has a conscious fear of death. I sincerely doubt the basic consciousness of animals. You don't see the difference?

Russell said...


On rereading your comment, I think you used "assume" in a way different than I first thought. My apologies.

Udolpho said...


Vegetarian diets are especially risky for children, require a great deal of care, and are easy to screw up, leaving long-lasting damage on the child-experiment. Positing vegetarianism as the only alternative to fat little pigs raised on junk food is a shameless but typical rhetorical tactic. I do not know how many 7-14 year olds stroke out or have heart attacks each year (due solely to eating meat or fish) but I'll bet a number can be found in the absurdly uncritical vegetarian literature. Perhaps millions!

Just as Christian Scientists will refuse to allow their children proper medical treatment, vegetarian loonies will often keep their children from getting the nutrients they need to develop properly. The problem of malnutrition is only compounded by being raised by people with signs of mental disorder.

The moral argument, far from showing greater awareness of and care for animal life, is the perverse nature-fetishism of those who have lived most of their lives far away from any kind of farm or wilderness area. Their conception of the animal kingdom is straight out of Disney, from which comes their warped value system. Ironically this makes progress in the humane treatment of animals (including livestock) more difficult, as one must constantly disassociate oneself from rabid morons who view terror tactics and property damage as proper rhetorical tools. PETA has probably set back their own cause decades.

But who knows what laws we will have in 50 years. Given the violent (due to B12 deficiency) vegetarian nature, possibly all meat will be outlawed and we will have to resort to cannibalism to get the meat we crave. Speaking of the connection between violence and lack of B12, does anyone know if Cho himself was a vegetarian? He seems the type.

Axolotl said...


"If you really accept HBD, then the differences between greater apes and (genetically) unintelligent humans starts to blur"

How is that? Any human population, no matter how unintelligent, is a member of our species and capable of communication and reproduction with other members of the species. You may say some meet the criteria for subspecies, but they are not an entirely different taxa. The Apes belong to different genera! Since there has been at least 4 million years of separation from our closest Ape relatives, I don't see how the line is blurred. You would have a better case if there were neanderthals about, but there are no other hominids.

In any case, we don't farm apes. The species we eat are very removed from our lineage, and may only be included in a clade containing humans if that clade were placental mammals. I don't see how the line can be blurred after at least 65 million years of divergence.

Plus, my comments had nothing to do with proving how great we are. I don't see who we are proving that to. On the contrary, I was pointing out that we are a typical predatory species - albiet one that has made predation immensely efficient!

Cato said...

One trend I've noticed as people have fewer kids is the surprising (and annoying) level of anthropomorphism that people have about their pets.

At work, several people, not just the office spinster, will sit around and talk about the wonderful things that their dogs and cats did last night. The medical care their pets receive is probably better than that of many poorer Americans. And none of them are ever put to any of the uses for which they were bred.

Just fifteen years ago this would have been regarded as eccentric and a little embarrassing to most people.

peewee said...

There have been many cases of children literally starving to death because their parents raised them on a vegan diet. But vegetarianism is not veganism, and there are millions of vegetarian families in the world today who do just fine.

Anonymous said...

Cows cause pollution and greenhouse gases;so if we eat less cows there will be less pollution and less gas,uhm,emitted into the 'sphere. But judging by MY emissions after eating lots of cruciferous vegetables,it could turn out to be a wash!

Anonymous said...

Do animals believe in human rights?