Today, on my Facebook feed, amongst the photos of kittens with yarn and puppies adorably chewing their own feet, this photo of a pile of euthanized dogs wandered past:
It was accompanied by a bland but well-meaning glurge poem in which a dog wonders why it had to die despite solvable behavior problems. Now, I completely agree that solvable behavior problems are no reason to drop your dog off at the shelter (I believe firmly in Not Shooting The Dog), but the poem, alas, misses the point: the horror of this photo does not lie solely in that there are dead dogs in it. It lies at least partly in how they died: these poor things are in a gas chamber, and have just been gassed to death, likely with CO2. This is the view the shelter technician saw upon opening the door afterwards. (When this image is fed into Google image search, it turns up dozens of articles on gas chambers, and how horrible they are.)
That animals are euthanized at all, because people still view them as property, as a commodity, as something to be “dumped” when they become obnoxious or ill or old or inconvenient, is a terrible thing. That animals are still “euthanized” by CO2 is an even more terrible thing. The people spreading this photo are missing a huge opportunity to note that not only did these dogs die because people are occasionally irresponsible morons, they died in a terrible, awful, unbelievably frightening and ugly way. (Click on that link, which contains video, at your peril.) They were twice the victims of human carelessness: the first time by the actions of those who landed them in the shelter, and the second by the actions of those who thought “lowest cost” was the primary requirement when choosing a method of humane euthanasia.
This is one of those sad points where I have to give up and flail helplessly at the screen. The words all mush together into one big AUGH. I applaud the people trying to spread the word about what we are doing to our companion animals, and can’t fault them for their choice of photo. I wish that the Machine wasn’t so huge that thinking about one part of it (“convenience dumping” of “excess” animals) didn’t lead to the discovery of another, equally awful part (“euthanasia” of dogs by CO2). I think what is scaring me the most, right now, though, is that I know enough about the world to glance at this photo and immediately recognize it as a gas chamber rather than a freezer. I’m glad I know about it — I’d rather know than not — but sometimes I miss the quiet-in-the-head of not knowing this is happening. It was rather peaceful.