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Our Furry Friends
by Rick Lewis
One fine day, Flopsy Cottontail set out from her burrow under the old oak tree to go to the village for some groceries. On the way she met Pinky the Pig and Patch the Dog. Pinky and Patch were quarrelling.
“People are just different,” said Pinky. “Of course you can’t be friends with People in the same way that you can be friends with other animals. ”
“That’s where you are quite wrong, Pinky,” said Patch. “I know many dogs who have humans as friends. We have a special link with them – we understand them and they understand us.”
“Understand them?” squealed Pinky. “But look at all the dreadful, cruel, awful things they do to one another. How can you seriously claim to understand a human without being a moral cripple yourself? Also, they have no instincts worth a damn.”
“I’m not saying that they reach our levels of empathy” growled Patch, defensively, “Plainly their sense of smell isn’t developed enough to let them understand what other creatures are really feeling. But within their limitations they can be loyal, brave, clever...”
“But Touchwood the Wise Old Toad said friendship was all to do with empathy. How can you empathize with humans when they are wondering how good you’d taste with beans and potatoes?”
Little Flopsy wrinkled her nose and drummed her back feet in irritation and alarm. “But it isn’t just humans that eat other animals,” she said. “Brer Fox eats chickens and ...r..r..rabbits too!”
Porky shifted uncomfortably. “Well yes, he does do that, it is true. It is in his nature. Harrumph. Yet he is still somebody you can have a conversation with. Incidentally, Patch, the other day I thought I saw you chasing him. There were a whole crowd of humans riding on horses following you both, yelling and shouting, and he was looking, well... hunted. What on earth were you doing to the poor chap?”
“I have nothing personal against Brer Fox. That was strictly business,” said Patch, evasively. “But friendship takes many forms. Certainly I would say that even love can exist between dogs and humans.”
“Hah! You love them, and they love bacon and eggs!”
“I’m afraid that doesn’t make any difference. Plato the Penguin says that love is the desire to possess the good always, and that it is to do with finding our missing half of ourselves. Isn’t that true of animals and humans? They have their strengths and we have ours. Where we are strong they are weak, and the other way around, too. We are halves of a whole. And we are all born of the same planet. We are cousins if you look back far enough. So it isn’t surprising if some dogs love their humans, or if cats love their owners...”
“Owners?” hissed a voice from above them. They all looked up to see Sasha the Cat. Nobody had heard him arrive, yet now there he was, sitting on a branch among the apple blossom, a judicious distance above Patch ’s head.
“Not all of them eat meat,” Sasha purred. “Some of them are...” (he struggled with the unfamiliar term) “... veterinarians.”
“Yes. They catch you and put you in a little cage and jab needles into you, but they don ’t eat you. They just cut off your goolies and spray you with poison then let you go.”
The other animals stared at him silently. Then Patch cleared his throat. “You can’t judge all humans by the actions of a few sickos.”
• • • • •
Welcome to this issue of Philosophy Now, which has a special focus on Animals and Philosophy. Interestingly, the conversation above, which was secretly taped by David Attenborough after a 3 week surveillance operation, touches on many of the key questions discussed at greater length in the articles in this issue.
* No animals were hurt in the production of this issue of Philosophy Now.