My friend Carole, an avid dog advocate and rescuer, got married yesterday. Instead of the white bridal gown, she wore a black sequined dress fashioned after the iconic dress Morticia Adams wore. So much for Tradition. And maybe that’s a good thing. After all, the white bridal gown was meant to show purity and virginity, and almost all brides today have, to put it delicately, lost their innocence long before the wedding day.
There’re a lot of good things to say about traditions, but where animals are concerned, too many of them are exploitative and abusive. Take bullfighting, for example. Efforts in Spain by Spanish animal rights advocates to ban bullfighting have failed miserably because the proponents of this cruel blood sport who say it’s all about Tradition. Though more citizens of Spain and Europeans who visit Spain are against bullfighting, it’s well-supported by government subsidies. Luckily, efforts to bring bullfighting to America have failed miserably, but our paws aren’t clean either. Tradition dictates that annual rodeos be held all over the country despite the efforts of advocates who speak out against the inhumane treatment of bulls, horses and calves.
Tradition also directs every presidential candidate to pose as a hunter during elections despite the fact that less than 3% of the population hunt. Taking kids fishing is a popular Tradition, but that’s just hunting in the water. Associating black cats with evil at Halloween, or eating turkey on Thanksgiving are two Traditions that will probably never go away, animal rights and the efforts of outspoken cat lovers and vegans, respectively, notwithstanding.
Even English idioms have become a Tradition. Expressions such as “Can’t swing a cat in this town without hitting a lawyer” or “Let the cat outta the bag” and “More than one way to skin a cat” or “Kill two birds with one stone” are used apparently without a thought or care as to what these sayings, each one more violent than the next, actually mean.
The Seminole Indians in South Florida have a long and proud Tradition of alligator wrestling, much to the chagrin of alligators, I’m sure. Dressing one’s pet in stupid costumes at Halloween is another Tradition that really should be outlawed because of the indignity and cruelty of strapping unusual stuff to a long-suffering and patient dog or cat.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Things seem to be improving in America. Those crazy cat videos that have become wildly popular can’t help but raise awareness of how cool cats truly are. Easter time no longer heralds the sale of pastel-colored chicks or pet bunny rabbits. Many movies are now using computer-generated graphics for animal scenes rather than the Traditional live animals.
In China and Japan, however, Traditions such as killing whales, sharks and just about every other species continue. The Traditional delicacy “Bird’s nest soup” requires the theft of nests made by remarkable birds who take months to build these amazing structures only to have them stolen for Asian palates. Traditional Chinese medicines and aphrodisiacs are responsible for the torture and slaughter of millions of gorillas, bears “raccoon dogs” and rhinos.
Gandhis’ oft-recited quote about how the “greatness of a nation is measured by the way it treats its animals” would suggest that American values may be shifting slightly towards greatness, but only when these Traditions go the way of slavery, using piano wire to trip horses in movies and the use of derogatory words to describe certain races and ethnic groups.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.