Why are so many Americans squeamish about animals?

I’ve often heard people say things like “If a person gets killed in a movie it doesn’t bother me; but if a dog dies I go to pieces.” On television, you can easily see dozens of humans being killed in an hour between movies and war documentaries. But animal deaths seem to be censored or regarded as somehow more tragic. For example, the series “Swamp People” always cuts the camera away at the last minute before the alligator hunter dispatches his game. Invasive and pest species seem to be rarely culled, both in the media and real life. I’ve seen wild hogs trapped in efforts to prevent erosion and crop damage and be relocated to another part of the state instead of just being shot. It’s even odder to see people calling animal control to deal with poisonous snakes, skunks, possums, and the like.
Then there are those who seem to regard pets as a form of surrogate children. Don’t get me wrong; I like my dog, but I don’t bring him to restaurants, carry him around 24/7, and take him to other people’s houses like a child. Many a time, I’ve had to clean the carpet because a house guest brought Fido over without any kind of warning. However, the owners seem to think of such behavior as absolutely normal.

What gives? It’s a far departure from the sort of attitude I saw on display while living in a rural area.

Animal Control: Dunno about where you live, but I’m pretty sure it’s not even legal for me to be killing a lot of those animals, and then I’d have to deal with disposing of the body as well. Not that I’ve had to call them yet, mind you, and I’ve had foxes, coyotes, possums, skunks, snakes, and all kinds of stuff in my suburban yard. (I’ve been thinking about Animal Control for the roaming cats, though. We know cats are vicious killers. :smiley: )

Soft-heartedness: I intellectually know that the humans in movies are actors. That had not always historically been true for the animals portrayed, and I think it hits an innate “animals and children are more helpless and less able to communicate” nerve for a lot of us, regardless of what we know to really be going on.

Oh, and as a pet owner - people who bring their pets with them to other people’s houses for casual visits can fuck off. I’ve never done that with my pets. I did, at a friend’s invitation, occasionally bring along a pet (a ferret once, two small rabbits once) when I did not have a boarding option and I was staying in her basement apartment for a vacation with her. She had cats upstairs, while my pet(s) was quiet and boarded in a little playpen out of sight downstairs. We’ve been friends for a couple decades and worked out the issues beforehand, and these days my rabbits go to a great boarder for their own separate “vacation” away from us.

I’m not sure that it was ever acceptable for filmmakers to actually kill the animals appearing in their films. But when pets do die in a story, there’s almost always a human character who is devoted to that pet, so part of the “squeamishness” has to do with empathy for the human character.

Aside from that, I find the relative lack of ability to communicate and understand why this is happening to them resonates very strongly with me.

Actually, it was not frowned upon to harm or kill animals during film making. There were various devices to make a horse trip and fall, for instance, and quite frequently the horse was injured. The Running W is a particularly well known method of making a horse fall down. It’s very effective…and quite cruel.

There are, incredibly, some fairly recent movies on this list of movies and shows where animals were harmed or injured. Note that these are just proven instances.

I’ve often wondered when animals became as, if not more, important than people in Western consciousness. I’ve also noticed some of the same stuff as the OP, so I’ll be interested to see what the answers people come up with involve.

Being as it’s you posting that, maybe it’s reached Australia as well as parts north of the Rio Grande (or maybe we have different definitions of “Western”, I know mine doesn’t match that of the author of The Clash of Civilizations), but most people in Europe still hold to the view that an animal is less important than a person. A lot of Americans sound like if there was a fire in their home and they had to choose between saving Fluffy or saving a human, they’d have serious problems deciding.

We’re used to seeing people die in movies but we’re not used to seeing animals die. I think the first time I noticed this phenomenon was during Independence Day starring Will Smith. There’s a scene where his wife and daughter take shelter from the alien bombardment in a tunnel. Literally millions of people were dying as New York was obliterated and I cared more about whether the family dog was going to make it to the shelter in time.

I promise you, most farmers who can legally get rid of pest animals will simply kill them rather than go through the trouble and expense of relocating them. If they’re relocating hogs it’s for some reason other than squeamishness. Unless they’re some sort of weirdo hippie type.

If I’m in a city who am I going to call? I can’t shoot any of them and I’m not sure beating them with a stick is a good idea. Though I have both shot and used a hoe on poisonous snakes before.

I’ve never met anyone like that but I’ve read about them. I’m not sure how big the problem is.

There are commercials on TV using the term “pet parents”, apparently some vets are issuing “birth certificates” for animals listing the owners as parents and giving the animal their last name.

When I see people talk about this as a ho hum everyday thing, you know like since I got divorced how do I change Fluffy Mcdiamond’s last name? :confused: It is a made up piece of nonsense paper, print a new one with whatever name you want!

I picked up some poison just the other day because I have a problem on the south side. Feral hogs breed readily and their rooting destroys the forage for all of the native wildlife.

What makes you think it’s limited to Americans? This New Zealander living in the UK is equally squeamish about this sort of thing.

Do you believe everything you see on TV matches the average person’s behavior/beliefs? :slight_smile:

I will capture spiders and daddy-long-legs in the house and release them outdoors, but that doesn’t make me “squeamish”. I think they’re valuable/interesting creatures and preserving them may send a little karma my way.

Now if an Ohioan sneaks into my house, they’re gonna get squished. :cool:

The commercials reflect how certain people are already behaving, trust me. These are pet food and pet supply ads that are simply using an existing term, they no longer say owner they say parent.

Its in dictionaries.

What is with the “untied dog outside=animal cruelty” thing? I’ve noticed this more and more too, people in the US think you are cruel if you keep a dog outside but untied with lots of shade etc. Multiple people on facebook and other online sources have voiced this opinion to me.

And before someone jumps on me I am from the US, but at some point it seems like there was a cultural shift or something I missed out on.

Yeah, I was asking if you thought that was common, rather than wacky outlier-types. Just like there’s a difference between giving a little girl a play makeup kit versus tarting her up like those “Toddlers and Tiaras” beauty pageant girls.

You can advocate just about anything online and someone will pop up and support it. Doesn’t mean it’s the common belief or “correct.”

(And back to the OP, I don’t like war/horror movies with people being harmed either, so I don’t think that’s necessarily considered to be Just Fine either.)

Pet food and supply people have one goal - sell more pet food and supplies. Their ad consultants use the words “pet parents” in an effort to convey to the public, “if you buy our brand, you’re more than just a pet owner. You animal will be like a child, and you’ll be treating them as such, and you should feel nice and superior about that. Buy our product, and feel superior.”

Most people I know see their pets as pets, self included. My cat is cute, and I like petting him, but he’s not a child. If he got expensively ill, I would not pay for treatment, I would humanely put him down. I’ve met exactly ONE person who calls her dogs “her kids” and would no doubt pay out the nose for their well being and survival. Which is fine. But it’s not the norm.

Probably the most extreme example of this is in Roland Emmerich’s films. He has no problem depicting worldwide catastrophes that kill off millions, but he just has to devote some screen time showing that the family dog made it to safety.

I’ve seen magazine ads for pet food featuring dogs with big soulful eyes accompanied by quoted lines to the effect of, “Mom, please don’t give me organ meats or other stuff you find objectionable in my food.”

Number one, dogs eat garbage happily and would never plead with you not to give them offal or -gasp- cereal fillers. Secondly, if your dog is calling you “Mom” you know what that makes you.

Seriously, I love animals, wanted to become a veterinarian from ages 6-18, and dote on any little critter I come into contact with. But they are animals, and if I have a pet, I’m its owner, not its mother.

This is such patent hyperbole it’s painful. This very thread is an example of how people rush to reassert that “humans are more important” whenever they see the slightest indication that someone else might not march in lockstep with that paradigm.

A good (non-cursory) look at the food industry ought to make anyone who claims “animals are treated better than humans” blush.

Even the pets we pamper most are treated orders of magnitude below humans.

Contrast the response the authorities make to reports of someone slapping a dog or someone striking a child.

I have to admit, I like most animals more than I like most people. Partly it’s the cuddly factor, but not always. My husband caught a tiny lizard (exact species unknown) inside the house, and showed it to me before he released it outside. It was less than an inch and a half long, and I squeeed. Yeah, I’m not really a girly girl, though I squee over kittens and puppies and baby bunnies, too. I’m not a big fan of cockroaches and mosquitoes, but that’s because they are actually pests.

My objection to using animals in films and shows in a way that is hazardous to them is simply that I don’t think that the animals can refuse to do the job. I mean, if a script writer wants a character to jump from a flaming building, then the casting agent has to find some human who is willing to do that, and pay the human. The human can ask for whatever safety measures s/he thinks is appropriate. However, in the case of the Running W device that I mentioned before, the horse didn’t have any sort of choice. It got rigged up, and it was tripped when it was going full speed ahead, and nobody really cared if the horse got hurt or killed. There are enough animal lovers these days, though, that will insist on that little notice from the Humane Society.

It’s like having sex with animals <insert obligatory sheep joke here>. In most cases, the animal isn’t interested in being the object of lust, and would prefer to be left alone. Yeah, yeah, there’s donkey shows and dog shows, but for the most part, animals don’t want to have sex with humans and avoid it when they can.

I’ve always wondered why “bitch” is considered an insult. Most female dogs that I’ve known have been admirable critters.

As for dogs and garbage…anyone who’s ever had a dog for any length of time knows that they love rotten, smelly stuff. If they don’t actually eat it, they’ll roll in it. They consider offal a treat. My cats cry when I roast a chicken, because my husband loves the heart and liver and gizzard and Won’t Share.