Who’s a good boy, then?

Brygos Painter
Brygos Painter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We love our pets and they, so far as they are capable, love us back. In particular dogs reciprocate when we shower our affection on them. They are so grateful to us, and more than repay us for adopting them and looking after them, providing them with food, housing and the aforementioned affection.

Cats on the other hand, do not appear to be so grateful for us letting them into our lives, and some cats seem to have an air of disdain for anything human related. I’m told by cat lovers that they are as affectionate as dogs, but it all seems to be very much on their terms.

English: British Shorthair Deutsch: British Ku...
English: British Shorthair Deutsch: British Kurzhaar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe that’s the way it should be. But maybe it is sheer hubris to assume that we are the top mammals, and that we should be treated as such. Cats are perhaps showing us that there are other ways to be superior.

There are other pets of course, such as birds and budgerigars, fish, rabbits and small rodents such as guinea pigs and hamsters, not to mention mice and rats. Some people have even more exotic pets, such as lizards and snakes, and even spiders.

Cuban Tarantula
Cuban Tarantula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While one can’t have as close relationship with these creatures as with dogs or cats, owners claim that these animals do show affection for their owners often in subtle ways. I’m sceptical that fish, snakes and spiders do so, but I’m willing to concede that the rodents probably do show affection to some small extents.

It’s probably that people began keeping pets as a convenient food supply. In some places rodents such as guinea pigs are bred for food, and the rabbits which have become pests in some parts of the world were definitely introduced as a food source. Apparently rabbits were introduced into the UK by the Romans as a food source, and it’s hard to realise that rabbits haven’t always been in the UK these days.

Meat-type rabbits being raised as a supplement...
Meat-type rabbits being raised as a supplementary food source during the Great Depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Larger animals, such as pigs, sheep and goats and other animals that are kept for their meat sometimes end up as pets. Maybe the child of a farmer may have hand-reared the animal when something happened to the animal’s mother and become attached to it. This is often seen as a waste by the farmer, but he may indulge the child and allow the animal to live.

In most cases of such larger pet animals, the animal does not live with the owners, but merely gets special treatment from the owners. It is a sort of half and half pet animal. In rare cases the pig or other animal may actually live with the humans, but this is considered eccentric. Often media will use such cases for “human interest” stories. I often wonder if the pig on the couch is really happy with the situation or whether it would prefer to be grubbing around outside.

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Some people keep horses. While horses are usually considered pets, but are working animals, some people get very close to their horses. It more of a close companionship than a really human and pet relationship, but horses do in many cases reciprocate when the humans show affection.

Showing affection implies some sort of consciousness behind the pet’s eyes. Some people argue that while animals do respond to human affection that their response is merely a stimulus/response reaction of the pet to the environment, which of course includes the human being. While pet seems to recognise that the human is being affectionate, the pet is a philosophical zombie, and there is nothing else going on.

English: Golden Retrievers posing for a photo ...
English: Golden Retrievers posing for a photo at Affectionate Pet Care Dog Daycare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find this argument to be dubious. We after all are conscious beings, and this consciousness must have evolved in our ancestors from scratch. I don’t just mean our human ancestors, but the ancestors of us, apes, cat and dogs, pigs, and horses. In other words all mammals, and maybe even the ancestors of other types of animal. I’d like to think, for example, that Tyrannosaurus Rex had some dim idea of itself and its place in the world.

This is, of course, the view that animal rights’ activists and vegetarians and vegans have of animals as sentient beings. While I have certain sympathies for their points of view, I feel that humans have the right to eat meat as part of their diet, just as any carnivore like a lion or a tiger has the right to hunt, kill and eat other animals.

Male Lion (Panthera leo) and Cub eating a Cape...
Male Lion (Panthera leo) and Cub eating a Cape Buffalo in Northern Sabi Sand, South Africa. Italiano: Leone maschio (Panthera leo) e un cucciolo mentre mangiano un Bufalo nel Nord di Sabi Sand in Sud Africa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are have evolved from hunter-gatherers whose diet included meat from animals that we hunted and killed and our bodies have developed (maybe even evolved) to subsist on such a diet, and we have issues if we try to exclude meat from our diets. Vegetarian diets tend to favour beans and other plant proteins which our bodies are not adapted to digest and plants do not contain much of some nutrients which our bodies need.

Pets are probably kept more for companionship than anything else. The mutual affection between a pet and its owner probably arises from that. Some people (as in any group of humans) tend to go to an extreme, as epitomised by the familiar “cat woman”. Such people often have psychological problems and tend to be somewhat withdrawn from society, and may form an extreme connection with their cats, and have a disregard of their own well-being.

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I prefer dogs over cats, because dogs interact with humans in a more human way than cats do, and kids who grow up with dogs will have seen all the training and looking after that their pets need, and themselves learn about responsibility. A pet dog is totally dependant on a human for housing, feeding and exercise. If the dog becomes ill, they learn that the owner is responsible for seeing that the illness is treated, and when the dog dies, they learn how to cope with death and grief.

When the human race expands to the stars, if we ever do, we will almost certainly take our pets with us. The dog, the cat, the guinea pig and the budgerigar will travel to the stars with us. They may be riding on our coat tails, but that is a measure of the success of their species and their connection to the human race.

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Britain’s exit from the European Union

By Rlevente [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In recent days we have seen Great Britain vote to withdraw from the European Union. While it is a significant event in itself, it perhaps points to a global trend of fragmentation, with large countries or unions splitting into smaller countries. These smaller countries are often ethnically different from other component countries that made up the original country.

The European Union (EU) started in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community which gradually extended its remit to cover almost every aspect of community in Europe. The UK was not part of the original member states but partially joined in 1973. In 1975 there was a referendum on whether or not the UK should leave the EEC or (then) Common Market. The vote was to remain part of the EEC.

By Eec2016 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s fair to say that the 1975 referendum was a non event. People of course did not know what the future would bring and the aims and purposes of the EU were, I believe, not understood. I saw no particular benefit and I was proved correct by events. (I’ve just realised the pun hidden in that – in fact the vote was not ‘non’ but ‘oui’).

Would trade between member countries have suffered if the UK had not voted in 1975 to continue to be part of the EEC? It’s impossible to say. Looking through the list, there is nothing there that really strongly calls out to me, and most of the items could have been achieved regardless of whether or not the UK remained or not.

EU Referendum Results 2016
By Brythones (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

From the perspective of countries outside of the EU, the EU is a disadvantage. The EU has a big hand in all trade agreements, and countries like Australia and New Zealand can’t target their traditional markets in the UK.

One of the big advantages of the EU is supposed to be the freer travel between member countries. This sounds great on paper, but passports are mostly still needed when people travel between countries, even though visa are not needed. While there is closer cooperation between member states on matters like drug trafficking, this will be offset to some extent by the freer travel between states.

Illegal drugs

Some people claim that the freedom of travel between member countries means that immigrants find it easier to travel between member countries and from the UK’s point of view this is all bad. An immigrant could obtain a passport in one country and immediately be able to travel to the UK for example.

It’s difficult to quantify some of the so-called advantages. For instance, being part of the EU supposedly provides greater influence in world affairs. However the leaders of countries outside the EU do not in practise seem to meet with the leaders of the EU, instead meeting with representatives of the individual countries, and to outside countries, the EU typically appears to be a barrier to trade because of the huge amount of bureaucracy that surrounds anything to do with the EU.


When the UK removes itself from the EU, it will be able to deal directly with non-EU countries once more. Since the UK is one of the largest economies in the world, ranking sixth in GDP, it should have no difficulty forging favourable trade links with other countries. Even trade with EU countries should not be affected too much – as someone said, Mercedes Benz will still want to sell their cars into the UK.

If the split of the UK from the EU goes ahead as it seems likely to do, this may result in other countries deciding to exit. This is not surprising of course, but this referendum may ultimately result in the dissolution of the EU back into member states.

Ballot Box
Ballot Box

This follows a trend which seems to be gathering pace. In 1991 the former Soviet Union dissolved into its constituent states. In 1993 Czechoslovakia spilt into two states. In 2014 Scotland narrowly voted against independence from the United Kingdom. Potentially the USA could split into separate countries, with the biggest state, Texas, being the most likely to secede from the union. China, is a huge country and is another candidate for potential division.

The EU is a huge bureaucracy and even the Pope has warned that the rules and regulations are onerous. While there are many euro-myths, it can’t be denied that the EU rules and regulations tend to be wordy and overbearing, and it seems that they do not replace local rules and regulations but add to them.

No Dogs in Inn
Rules and regulations

For instance, I was looking at Directive 2000/13/EC which relates to the labelling of foodstuffs. It runs to 36 pages and there are 9 amendments and one correction to the document. It is full of references and cross-reference and exceptions and special cases. One of the paragraph reads, in full, “Ingredients shall be listed in accordance with this Article and Annexes I, II, III and IIIa”.

Much of this verbiage is designed to protect the end consumer of course, and this is good, but I can’t imagine that the local butcher, or even a supermarket butcher, has read all the regulations relating to the way he labels his merchandise. Yet a provider can be in trouble if he/she doesn’t comply with these regulations as enforced and possibly modified by member governments.

Food labelling
Food labelling

So, I think that Britain has done the right thing to start its withdrawal from the EU. It will cost a lot. Billions, over a number of years, but the price will be worth it. Scotland may decamp, but there were signs that that alliance was under strain anyway.

It’s a miracle though, that they decided to leave, as many people seem to be having second thoughts, even calling for a new referendum on the subject, with more than 2.5 million people signing a petition to hold one.  I can foresee a time when the 14th referendum on the subject is held and the question will be “Come on people! Make up your minds! Do we really, really want to exit the EU, or not? Please let’s make this the last time, OK?”

By Cafe cafes Cafe cafes (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a distinct note of concern in the comments of the man in the street about the result of the referendum. One guy admits to have voted “Leave”, but says that he didn’t think his vote would matter, and that he is now very worried. I think that this is mere nerves and the burden of having made a scary decision, but I believe that they got it right. Others are happy with their decision.