Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Treatment of Animals

This post is a bit of a deviation from my usual format, but bear with me through my philosophizing and typically concealed nerdiness.

Some of you may be surprised to find out that I attended the midnight showing of the new Harry Potter movie last night. I know, I know; I seem perfectly normal, but just beneath the surface I am a devoted Harry Potter fan. I could pass the responsibility onto my little sister, and pretend that I was merely chaperoning, but I really went for myself. I’m sure you’re wondering what Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has to do with a vegan blog, but just wait, I do have a point.

The major overarching theme throughout the Harry Potter series is the battle between good and evil. It is an oft repeated story throughout human history. The unjustified subjugation of various races and religions is paralleled in Lord Voldemort’s persecution of Muggles (non-Magical peoples) and wizards of less than pure blood status. During this time of terror and oppression, the Ministry of Magic takes it upon themselves to warn pure blood wizards of the dangers posed by their “less pure” brethren in a propagandistic pamphlet entitled “When Muggles Attack.” This is obviously a reference to the Fox documentary series “When Animals Attack,” aired in the mid to late 90’s, featuring imagery of animals gruesomely attacking humans.

The incongruity between Muggles attacking wizards as a clearly preposterous idea, and animals attacking humans as a seemingly reasonable fear, seems to speak to the larger issue of our treatment of animals. Readers of the Harry Potter series understand that it is only the truly evil who believe that wizards have the right to enslave and abuse Muggles. Yet, our current society has no problem inflicting mass cruelty on what we, ourselves deem “lesser” species. Just as we now look back on the 1967 film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” and wonder how people could have been so threatened by the idea of interracial marriage, I believe we will look back on our current animal treatment practices in disbelief. So much of our culture and behavior is founded on arbitrary distinctions of “better” and “deserving.” Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking our behavior toward animals is in any way justifiable. In the future, when our treatment of animals has changed, we will reflect on this time as a collective embarrassment. Take a moment to consciously consider your own role in this system, and let’s make that future sooner rather than later.

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