Oh gosh, those poor little prairie dogs

West Texas is not generally known as a bastion for PETA, although you wouldn’t be able to tell that based on the reaction to the recent rash of animal-related crimes and distasteful happenings.

When an emu gets strangled, we are quite upset. And if a rancher lets 300 horses nearly expire in a Presidio County stockyard, that offends us. Pet cats getting dismembered horrifies us, a dog getting shot with a crossbow drives us near into a blind rage.

And then the city of Odessa goes out and slaughters wholesale a prairie dog colony, and everyone is about ready to just go nuts and burn down city hall.

It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, though, does it?

With the prairie dogs, for example, I mean, I like the little things; they are so awfully cute. And if they’re in a vacant lot not hurting anybody, why kill them off? They’re fine, they’re in a cage practically, and we like to look at them as they poke their heads up and scurry around, apparently for no other reason than our own delight.

But if there were a couple hundred rats in the same spot…

Maybe there’s a difference in that prairie dogs aren’t interested in getting up in our living space, but if you found out the Parks and Wildlife Department had killed a bunch of rats with cyanide, or I don’t know, that stuff they poison grackles with, how much would you care? Be honest.

Even when you look at the treatment of the same animal, say, cattle. Now, the images that came out of that Reeves County thing where a dozen died in a sun-baked pasture without any water, those were horrendous. On the website, we didn’t even put up the worst one, which showed the half-birthed calf up close. Friend, there is no disclaimer sufficient for how awful and sad that image was, and one imagines the actual scene was several orders of magnitude worse.

But for all that, livestock already have an unenviable life. Going to get steroids and immunization, going to get branded, involves being herded onto a necessarily cramped, hot trailer, bouncing along down the road against metal and other cattle, who may not all be your friends. And maybe worst of all, especially if you’re a calf shorter than your neighbors, ruminant beasts are not known to have impressive bowel or bladder control.

This is a special kind of hell. And ultimately, as a bovine, you exist to get fat and get killed. That’s it. Unless you’re an impressive sort of bull, this is pretty much the best thing that happens to you.

Basically, we’re OK with most animals getting shot (with a bullet), or tortured and clubbed to death in an impersonal, industrial way. But nothing else. (Just ask those Iraan boys involved in that whole “deer thing.”)

Fundamentally, we don’t want to think about certain things, because it makes us unhappy to realize the price of making us happy. If it’s in your power to help an animal, you should, and you shouldn’t unnecessarily hurt it, however necessary is defined. That seems reasonable.

Meanwhile, there is an East African drought going on. They also have been unable to water their lawns, so they sympathize with us, I think. Anyway, apparently 29,000 Somali children have died of famine and thirst.

For some reason, I bet that doesn’t outrage you as much as hearing about the cattle or even the prairie dogs.

And I hope it’s because it’s too terrible to imagine. But I think really it’s that we just care more about the prairie dogs.

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