Animals shouldn't suffer for our sake

I'm as fond of dogs as you can be of anything that sniffs other animals' poo then wants to lick your face. Which is to say, I like them when they belong to somebody else and behave beautifully, as is equally the case with small children now that I have none of my own.

The kind of dog I don't like is the kind my Auntie Barbara had - a series of variations on the dachshund theme, completely uncontrollable, yappy, snatch-sniffing, barking, barmy nuisances.

On these she lavished the love she never seemed to feel for people.

The last dog was a boston terrier with issues. We buried it with her because it was beyond civilising, as even the SPCA agreed. Part of me still feels bad about that because it wasn't the dog's fault it was a basket case, but you can dispose of delinquent dogs the way you can't with larger delinquents.

My aunt gave fair warning that she intended to leave her estate to Beauty Without Cruelty, an organisation she'd read about that is opposed to testing cosmetics on animals. Like many people, she'd have half-starved herself to keep any one of her mutts alive.

I call that folly, but keeping sick animals alive for a lot of money is a kind of competition with some people, who I suspect spend more on their animals' welfare than their children's, boasting about the thousands of dollars it costs to keep an ancient moggy alive, thus proving how tender-hearted they are. Science is less so.

A recent report described the research English scientists were conducting with paraplegic dogs.

They had taken olfactory cells from the noses of paraplegic dogs and injected them into their spines.

According to the report, the dogs that got this treatment had some co-ordinated movement restored, but higher brain functions like bladder control and sexual activity were unchanged.

I was a bit disgusted when I read about the research, which it's hoped may one day offer help for paraplegic humans.

So great is my distrust of scientists that I assumed they'd have rendered the dogs paraplegic in the interests of their dark art. This was not the case.

I am mildly disgusted instead by the dogs' owners, who've kept paraplegic pets alive after terrible accidents because they think they're humans.

Pets are a fine thing, but I'd question my values if I kept one alive after a serious spinal injury when the money it cost to keep it going would give some hapless, starving village somewhere a well to irrigate their land and grow food.

Yet we can be blandly indifferent to human suffering thousands of miles away, while a pet in our own home can lick our hand in obsequious devotion and make us feel wholly admirable.

Bearing our close relationship with dogs in mind, of course we're outraged at the very idea of science making them suffer just for the sake of people who choose to use party pills. I don't believe such research will be done here, though the government is keen to make party pill producers have to prove their goods are harmless in the same way as medical drug companies do.

For one thing, killing dogs would be a major downer for the pill users, forced to face the cruelty involved - giving animals enough chemicals to kill them - while knowing that the pills are far from essential, and their use won't save a single human life.

Getting pleasure thanks to the suffering of other creatures is never going to be a good look. Even advertisers might cringe.

My aunt eventually left her estate to the SPCA and cancer research.

She must have changed her mind, because it seems that Beauty Without Cruelty is a thriving international business, not a charity.

Good for her, though, for championing a company with an ethical platform of not testing any of its products on animals, however small, and possibly causing them harm.

No animal, not even a barmy dachshund, should be made to suffer for the sake of our self-indulgence.

The Dominion Post