Farmers, hunters and animal scientists who run afoul of animal rights activists can blame Felix Salten, who wrote "Bambi;" Hollywood film producers such as Walt Disney and Universal; the makers of Bugs Bunny cartoons; and the producers of such recent films as "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" for many of their troubles.
The problem is anthropomorphism, a $50 word that means, simply, attributing to animals, or inanimate objects, human characteristics. Writers have been doing this since writing began and they continue to produce stories, novels, movies, cartoons, and television programs that depict animals having the ability to think, talk, and even ponder just as humans do.More than 180,000 Utah hunters are expected to be in the field early Saturday morning. Some people feel they are all looking for Bambi. Actually, these hunters are looking for deer to shoot for sport and for the meat these animals afford.
But many people, who have grown up enjoying animal stories in books and movies and who have enjoyed animal cartoons and television programs, decry the hunting of animals for sport or charge sheep or cattle raisers or dairy farmers with cruelty.
For these friends of animals, the hunter with his .30-06 rifle or farmers who pen up animals or who castrate or brand cattle or horses are cruel and inhuman.
We visit a dairy farm and see giant Holstein cows cloistered in individual pens, with little space to move about, their heads sticking through steel gates painted black as they eat their ration of hay. Several times a day they are led to a milking parlor where they are forced to undergo a cleansing operation and then their milk is taken from them by automatic milking devices.
Sheep are shorn of their wool annually in an operation that leaves them looking naked and cold. Sometimes the shears slip accidently and a sheep is nicked, just as men nick themselves shaving occasionally, and a little blood is drawn.
After the spring roundup, young horses and cattle are branded with hot irons. There is the smell of burned hair, the sound of sizzling flesh and we can imagine the pain that the animal feels.
It is a good idea to put things into perspective, however.
Those cattle in feedlots or milk cows in their pens - they are often fed either continually or periodically, sometimes four times a day. The feed is usually excellent and nutritionally balanced and the care these animals receive is far better than if they had grown up wild.
There are certainly cases of farmers neglecting their animals. But these are rare cases. There are cases of child neglect, too, and child abuse.
Americans enjoy the finest food in the world and at the least expensive prices. Farmers are to be congratulated for their efforts to produce the finest beef, lamb, wool and milk in the world.
Cancer is being conquered in the laboratory, in large part through the use of animal research. A host of other diseases have been or will be stamped out through research on animals.
Put Bambi in his place, between the covers of a book and in a corner of the mind devoted to fantasy and imagination.
Use a little reason and logic, a little common sense when weighing hunters, farmers, and research scientists in the overall scheme of things - and when considering the ultimate value of animals and what place they have in relation to man.