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Holland Park Press

Column: On Defending a Pike

20 February 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

I am totally against putting animals on equal footing with human beings. This muddles the debate, which was something that sprung to mind this week when I read that a Swiss advocate had defended a pike in court. The defendant, an angler, was accused of having spent ten minutes landing the pike and the pike didn’t survive his ordeal.
Luckily the angler was acquitted and the plaintiff’s advocate announced that he wouldn’t appeal on behalf of his client, the pike. ‘The purpose of this case wasn’t to equalize people and animals in the eyes of the law,’ declared the pike’s advocate. Really, you dunce, if that is so why did you decide to defend a pike in the first place? 
The Swiss are holding a referendum on the 7th of March about the question of whether to appoint an animal rights advocate in each Swiss canton. These advocates will be funded by the government ‘because the animals themselves do not have any money’.
This is not the first time that the Swiss have behaved rather oddly, for example canton Appenzell Innerrhoden managed to prevent women from voting until 1990.
Let’s return to the animals. I have never spotted a cuckoo carrying a wallet, not even when it resided in a Swiss clock. Similarly, I can’t recall ever having seen a chimpanzee writing an opera nor a gorilla writing a novel, and it is certainly common knowledge that chickens are no experts about bobsleighing.
The Dutch parliament is home to the Animal Rights Party. This week there was an important debate about whether Dutch troops should stay in Afghanistan. At the end of her speech, Marianne Thieme, the Animal Rights Party leader, added her customary statement: ‘And let it be known that the main pledge in our manifesto is to phase out the bio-industry.’ Watching this utterance at home causes me to lament.
Animal rights activists dig their own graves if they encourage defending a pike against an ordinary angler who enjoys his sport. If that is your policy you have to advocate the plight of the other party as well. So do go ahead and sue the shark for attacking a surfer. ‘That wasn’t my intention,’ said the shark, ‘he clearly resembled a seal, in my humble opinion.’
What about the naughty crocodile from Florida who dared to tear the neighbour’s dogs to shreds? And any fruit fly, come to think of it? Do not even mention malaria bugs, it’s clear they are serial killers!
Actions such as: bombing scientists involved in animal testing in order to find cures for horrendous diseases, setting fire to trucks used for animal transport, but certainly too defending a pike in court, really are counterproductive.
The real issue is to convince the average consumer to buy food that has been produced in a responsible manner. The actions I cited do not at all achieve this aim.
Another thing I read this week was that during the last four years the Dutch have held the ‘Most Sexy Vegetarian’ contest. I won’t deny that vegetarians are lovely people but I fail to see the connection between vegetarian and sexy.
Do you know why this contest takes place? Because being a vegetarian and/or being concerned about animals is very fashionable. Jonathan Safran Foer, JM Coetzee, and an endless list of other celebrities are almost turning vegetarianism into a religion and proclaim it makes you a superior human being.
I must admit that I think there are quite a few other more important factors that decide if you are an asset to society.
The fact remains that viewing animals as a special class of human beings doesn’t solve any problems. Not even for proponents of eating meat and fish. Last week one of the adverts issued by a Dutch supermarket talked of ‘happy pigs’. I can’t wait for the advert featuring: ‘sunny succulent shrimps’.
Actually the reverse works very well. If you do not treat your pet, livestock, or another human being humanely, you are indeed an animal. In my own life I have come across a man I call ‘the Rat’ and a scheming woman, who can only be described as ‘the Serpent’.
If I do have to come to the defence of an animal I would go for a lovely blonde one, an endearing ginger kitten or an alluring black tigress, any animal as long as it is adorable.
The blinkered fanaticism of animal rights activists doesn’t benefit what is, in principle, a good cause. What type of animal do I resemble? you may ask. A cuddly brown bear; but beware, I can be dangerous, especially when confronted by wolves in sheep’s clothing.

© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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