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The RSPCA and cutesy tactics

November 24, 2014

If I have a criticism of the RSPCA and all the fine work they do, it’s that they do little to discourage people from having pets in the first place. They must know better than anyone: the more pets we have, the more cruelty they have to contend with. I’ve seen an increase lately in the number of RSPCA cruelty adverts in preparation for Xmas, since they expect a rise in cruelty. I remember the slogan “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” from the considerably less famous and powerful Dogs Trust, and how those awareness ads were so effective, people would quote them without prompting in all sorts of contexts. This had the effect of reminding people, year on hear, not to buy someone a canine gift, as this is irresponsible.

I believe that these sorts of campaigns ought to be year round. People buy pets for all sorts of reasons; fashion, intimidation, competition. Even companionship is a bad reason, since it puts the human need above the animal one – the surest way to lose sight of animal rights in favour of human ones (see vivisection).

As it is, the RSPCA knows that a cute picture of a dog or cat is as effective if not more than a horrifying picture of an abused dog. The problem with this is that every advertising company (and their dog) uses this. They use it to sell toilet paper, coke, paint, nappies, homes and all sorts of other things. There has been a definite increase in this tactic, which means it must work a treat for selling goods and services.

I’m guilty of enjoying them as much as the next person and was bemused bordering on irate when Andrex swapped out their real puppy for a CGI one, even though this is clearly less exploitative. The reason was mainly that they had swapped out something cute for something trying to be cute, and there is nothing more annoying to consumers than an advert that tries too hard. Andrex (why do I always think of anthrax?) did me a favour though, because it was this that opened my eyes to the absolute reliance of modern capitalism on cute imagery.

It sells products so well, we must have a national obsession on our hands. The appetite for cute is insatiable, so it doesn’t confine itself to cats on the internet; I’m seeing more and more shared videos of people’s exotic pets, rises in their breeding and sharing from pygmy hedgehogs to the slow loris. The problem is, we cannot take care of them properly and have to result to cruelty to make human-friendly pets out of them.

In part, I blame advertising for perpetuating this problem, since more supply of cute imagery, like more supply of any imagery, increases demand. And because I blame advertising and capitalism for everything. Because I can. But in part, the trend comes from the internet. Hank Green, one of the popular YouTube duo “vlogbrothers”, once made a video on “the cuteocalypse”, whereby the world would be overtaken by cute imagery. Japan has been diligently working on this for years, but in the West we have YouTube, Facebook and LolCats to thank for its recent rise. Every pet born since the turn of the century has had his 15 minutes of fame.

This complete inability to switch off from pics of pets makes for a world saturated in them. Like most things we enjoy, many of us find that, rather than feeling like there’s too much, we just can’t get enough. We have a tendency to want what others’ have without ever thinking about whether we should, or about the accumulative effect of our collective actions. The upshot of this is a rise in pet keeping, which not only leads leads to an increase in cruelty and misuse by naive people who never realised that living creatures have pressing, never ceasing needs which take up a lot of time and effort and must be attended to, but also a large environmental impact.

Yet, the RSPCA will use the tactics of the cuteocalypse to get money to support their efforts. I hope the money that comes in as a result of this campaign leads to more efficiency in tackling animal cruelty than is lost tackling the unintended effects of it, but either way it is not a good preventative strategy for abuse – which should, of course, be the ultimate aim of the RSPCA if they have any integrity. It is not a good preventative strategy because, whatever the context, pictures of cute animals increases demand for them and increases the number of irresponsible pet owners.

So, RSPCA, keep up the cruelty pictures, shock tactics and warning / advisory slogans – but watch out for the cuteocalypse, because it will bring worse lives for animals, not better ones.


From → Animal Rights

  1. Reblogged this on iliketowritewhatithink and commented:
    That the RSPCA does not advocate for veganism is another black mark in my book. There would be so much less animal cruelty in a mainly vegan world.

  2. When I share cute pictures and videos on Facebook, I usually do so in the context of making comparisons between how we treat cute pet animals and those in the agricultural sector. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs and there is no reason to pet one and kill the other. Cows are just like horses. Lambs and calves like cuddles too. Chickens will follow you around and can do tricks for treats, just like dogs. No animals should be food, I say on these pictures. They are all friends, and none of them are food.

  3. Carol Williams permalink

    Good post, as usual, and I’ve shared it on, as usual, but there are a couple of mistakes. The first is the blue highlighted bit – which should say Resort, not result, to cruelty. Also ‘pictures’ is plural so the verb following is ‘increase’ not ‘ increases’ and ‘others’ doesn’t need an apostrophe after it because it isn’t a genitive in this context, but a straight plural.

    Just in case you want to correct these things.

    Mumsy. xxxx

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