let's talk farm animals

Animals aren’t 4-legged people

January 6, 2021 - Happy New Year to the readers of this blog. This article was printed in the Toronto Star over the holiday season and we think this columnist got the issue exactly right. Farm animals aren’t pets and they definitely aren’t 4-legged people. And, with only 1 in every 46 Canadians now actively farming, there is a huge disconnect between farmers and consumers. Enjoy the read - OFAC

The annoying tendency to anthropomorphize animals is likely from our lost connection to rural life

by Connie Woodcock, Out There

Toronto Sun, December 20, 2020

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with a series of books about a pig named Freddy and his barnyard friends on the Bean farm in New York State.

I read every one of the 26 books available in my library over and over. I can remember peering at a New York road map in search of fictional Centerboro, the town supposedly nearest Freddy and his friends.

Written between the 1920s and 1950s, the Freddy books disappeared for a while but they were republished a few years ago and there’s even an association called The Friends of Freddy with its own website. I’ve bought several Freddy reprints and reread them still.

I mention this because much as I loved Freddy, Mrs, Wiggins the cow, Hank the horse with rheumatism in his hind leg, and Charles the henpecked rooster, we all grow up and realize there’s no such thing as a talking animal. At least, most of us do.

But for the last 10 years or more, the tendency to anthropomorphize animals — to attribute to them human intelligence, emotions and rights — has grown from a fringe movement to mainstream. It’s no longer weird to hear of psychiatry for a rottweiller or major dental surgery for a pomeranian. I know a couple whose ancient cat survives only because they give it daily shots. It costs a pile and has cancelled their vacation but they do it anyway.


We’ve all seen those women with the designer bags made to hold a furry accessory like a teeny chihuahua. The other night, CBC news featured a dog wearing a baby blue fur-trimmed designer coat and matching boots. All perfectly normal now.

Sure, it’s easy to treat an animal like your child. My husband and I occasionally find ourselves putting words in our beagle’s mouth and we have a tendency to think that because beagles have sad faces, they actually are sad.

All of this can lead to somewhere unattractive.

To the Toronto Humane Society and its problems, some of which revolve around the policy of euthanizing as few animals as possible and to a pit bull-Labrador cross, ordered destroyed by a judge, living instead in the then-president’s office, where it reportedly attacked other animals as well as shelter workers. (The THS denies any animals were treated inappropriately).

It leads to PETA and its animal rights campaign that puts seals ahead of humans. It leads to the global campaign to save polar bears even though there’s considerable doubt that polar bears need saving.

Part of the problem is that few of us have any connection to rural Canada where most working animals live and where the reality of their lives is easier to comprehend. We no longer understand that animals’ lives must sometimes end ahead of schedule for a number of reasons — overpopulation, severe illness, viciousness or plain old age.

A friend of mine recently had to put down her favourite horse. The animal was still on its feet but clearly failing and a parade of veterinarians arrived in the barnyard in search of a reason. Finally, after more money than my friend could really afford, it became clear the animal had a defective heart valve that would shortly kill it. My friend was devastated, but she was also realistic. The horse was put down. It’s called having mercy.

For the truth is that prolonging animals’ lives when they’re suffering is not merciful. Neither is letting them live out their span in overcrowded and dirty conditions without proper medical treatment. Any farmer knows that.

And making animals into four-legged people, developing a whole range of emotions and thoughts for them that they do not have is not merciful either. You could even call it cruel.



Posted by FFC on January 6th, 2010 :: Filed under Activism,Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Sustainability of the family farm
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2 Responses to “Animals aren’t 4-legged people”

  1. Alexandre Jalbert
    March 7th, 2010

    Thumbs up!! I’m happy to see someone speaking out the truth. While animals are sentient beings, they are not rational beings. I wish people like Ingrid Newkirk would grasp this.

  2. april
    January 28th, 2011

    You have made a great point, to an extent. I agree that many humans go way too far making their pet into something they are not. For instance my mother-in-law who doesn’t want her dogs rolling on their backs in the yard when it’s perfectly dry.
    However, I have 2 horses, a donkey, and some rabbits along with a couple cats and a dog and, reluctantly admit, have conversations with them all, daily. I believe I can communicate with them, all, better than most, by watching their body languages. This may sound silly or dillusional, (take your pick) both?
    I refuse to believe, or consider each of them as less than equal to me. Admitedly, I will need a horse trainer to help me take control and show my mare who the leader is, and that it took me a year or so to show my adopted 80 lb Airdale-mix the very same thing.
    I think you may enjoy a book by Monty Roberts, called, “The Man Who Listens to Horses”. If you haven’t already read it, that is.

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