Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Animal Lovers Beware

"Tigers do not care about your love. They do not crave your approval. They also do not fear your disapproval. What matters to a tiger is the way a tiger walks, and if you don't know everything about how a tiger walks, you will find yourself getting in the way and you will get hurt. Of course, you're probably going to get hurt anyhow, but you will not survive if you think that your love is to the point of anything you will ever see in a tiger's eyes. You have to understand your cat." - Mark Harden, animal trainer, quoted by Vicki Hearne in "Job's Animals" (in Animal Happiness)

And here's Hearne (in the same essay): "...I did have to leave off teaching a writing class one day at the University of California to help round up some frightened macaques. The situation was urgent enough for me to abandon a classroom because the macaques would have died on the loose in one or more of a number of horrible ways. They had been 'freed' by people who pitied them, but pity is another uprightness the unicorn, the ostrich, and the macaque do not find compelling as we do. In a lifetime of work with animals I have never known moral outrage to help a single animal. Ever."

(The unicorn is mentioned in the Book of Job; there are various speculations about this, usually either that it refers to a rhino or wild ox, but it could be some other wild animal. Wildness is the point: Job cannot control all of the animals; their powers are beyond him. In this sense, animals are a reflection of God. Hearne insists, contra Heidegger, that such animals do have World, just not ours. And the point of this is to remind us that the world is far greater than our categories and concerns, or as Hamlet said, "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy." It's interesting to consider that in this respect, the Book of Job seems to subvert the "dominion" granted to Noah and his people over all the animals.)


  1. Reminds me of Herzog's rejection of Treadwell's outlook in Grizzly Man.

  2. Right. I was thinking about Grizzly Man as I read this essay.