Sunday, September 25, 2005

Animals in Katrina and Rita Photos

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, I remember seeing a picture inside the New York Times of a horse walking down a deserted, ransacked New Orleans street. His head was down, and his tail limp. The look on his long face was one of sadness and worry. It was a picture that may have had more of an impact on me than any other that I saw after Katrina. But it was of a domesticated animal, not a person. It was of someone - something - that had survived, not been killed. The stories from the New Orleans Convention Center horrified me, and I was disgusted and saddened by the pictures from the Superdome. Still, this picture probably made me think more than any other picture. Then, this morning, the picture to the left - from a Louisiana town devastated by Rita - was the feature image on the Times front page. It's more of an action photo than the one of the horse was, but this picture made me have similar thoughts.

We've all been in a movie theater watching a thriller or some other movie in which dozens of people are killed on screen, eliciting nothing more than grimaces or gasps. But then, a dog or a cat is killed, and you hear shrieks or moans or sniffles from someone in the audience crying.

Why do we respond to animals in this way? My guess is that it's the apparent innocence of a soaking wet dog, or a scared horse, or a herd of lost, drowning cattle that makes pictures of these suffering animals so difficult to look at. But is there something larger? Maybe we're so used to hearing on the news about people being killed and made homeless that we're numb, in a small way, to these stories of human suffering. Is it that evidence of animal suffering is less common? These questions are all very interesting to me, and I'd bet that it doesn't take an "animal lover" or even a dog- or cat-owner to have the same response to the stories and pictures of animals left behind to face these storms and their aftermaths.


At 1:08 PM, Blogger janinsanfran said...

In the early 90s, I had the privilege of doing technical assistance training for anti-aparthied newspapers in the old (pre-democracy) South Africa.

One of the oddest things about what was a quite surreal society was that in white areas, animal rights bumper stickers were everywhere. Perhaps when human community is broken, we project our desire for it onto animals?

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Sharon GR said...

I believe it has something to do with helplessness. We almost always assume an adult human has a choice, some way out, or somehow got themselves in that situation; at the very least they know what is happening to them.

Children and animals don't have any independence. They depend completely on us and trust us. Failing in that trust wounds us deeply.

As well it should.

At 11:20 PM, Blogger Sergeant-At-Arms said...

At last I hear your voice and something insightful to say rather than someone else's and you just cut and pasting news briefs. I loved this commentary.


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