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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Recognizing Propaganda

Last night, after Bow went to sleep,  I took my daughter and her friend to the movies. The movie they chose was Dolphin Tale II. It was a fairly enjoyable marine film, based apparently on some degree of truth, but I could not help but feel that it was also full of propaganda. The plot of the movie in a nutshell is that a handicapped dolphin named Winter, who lost her tail, is in danger of losing her human companions, too, because her dolphin companion has died, and the USDA inspector is threatening to move her to a facility far away, where she can have a new dolphin companion. The requirement for having a dolphin companion cannot be waived, because it is imposed by the government. Luckily, in the end, an orphaned dolphin is found who can keep Winter company, so that she will not be torn away from the humans who love her. The USDA inspector is satisfied, and all is right with the world. (Sorry about the spoiler.)

This is the brave new world of animal rights. In this world, people don't own dolphins, but the USDA apparently does. Hence even if you own a marine aquarium and run it yourself, the government gets to decide what happens to the animals who are there. In order for an uncompanioned dolphin who depends on you to stay in its home, you have to hope, pray and wish that somewhere out there in the ocean a mother dolphin will serendipitously die so that an orphan can be found who can allow you to keep the animal you love.

I could tell that this film was intended to "educate" the public about animal rights because certain key phrases kept being repeated, most notably "she's a wild animal, not a pet." This was even though there were clear emotional bonds between the dolphin Winter and her human companions on whom she depended.  (The story would not have been interesting if there were not.)

The smaller children in the audience were very much into the story, holding their breaths to see whether the older dolphin and the orphan would bond, but they will undoubtedly go home with some of the key phrases that were smuggled into the script lodged somewhere in their brains, without even knowing it.

Somewhere in my Facebook feed this morning, there was a meme attributed to Robespierre about how the road to freedom is through education. Really?! Are you sure you want to quote Robespierre on that?

The road to freedom is not to be found in being "educated" by someone else on what you should be thinking. The road to freedom begins when you start thinking for yourself.

The USDA is one of those alphabet soup agencies that even predates FDR. It was founded under Abraham Lincoln, the "great emancipator". He called it the "people's department". Shades of Robespierre? The mission of the USDA is to regulate agriculture and to assure food safety and maybe also "end hunger." It's funny how a Federal agency aims to put an end to that growling in your stomach that tells you it's lunch time.

Americans do not eat dolphins. They don't eat dogs. And they certainly don't eat chimpanzees. And yet the USDA has taken on itself the mission to regulate all of these animals and to make decisions about individuals who keep them if they have even the slightest link with "the public". I know of dog breeders who have recently come under USDA jurisdiction. I know that anyone who breeds chimpanzees or allows the public to view them is also subject to USDA requirements.

Bow leafs through the latest issue of Bazaar

I want a female companion for Bow.

But, ironically, if I ever got one, that would open me up to USDA inspection, because they would label me a breeder. So it's in some measure thanks to the USDA that Bow still has no chimpanzee companion. But this does not mean that he lacks for companionship, as he is part of a family that loves him. and I am always there.

Bow should not have to choose between his human family and chimpanzee companions. There is no reason it should ever be that way. In a better world, there would not be any government intervention, and people would be free to meet all the companionship needs of their animals using their own judgment and the means at their disposal. Nobody would have to pray for a wild bottle-nosed mother dolphin to die just so as to keep their own beloved dolphin. And nobody would confuse companion animals with food or believe that it's the government's place to end hunger.

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