On November 19th early in the morning while it was still dark the French police raided an apartment in St Denis, north Paris. BBC News was reporting as the drama unfolded. What it failed to mention was that of the Research, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence (Raid) unit the first to go in was Diesel, a female Belgian Shepherd dog.
According to The Guardian newspaper “Diesel had been sent in to the apartment ahead of officers to ascertain how dangerous the situation was when it was shot dead.”
She was just 7 years old.
There is so much wrong with this – where do I start?
First of all, Diesel was not an ‘it’. She was a she. Calling her ‘it’ indicates that she is an object of no significance.
Then let’s talk about the early evening television news in which the raid was reported by various on-the-spot correspondents. I did not see one mention of Diesel. The only fatalities I heard reported were of the terrorists. Editors could be forgiven this omission earlier in the day but later, after the police tweet about her death, what was the excuse? Not important enough because she was just a dog?
Certainly not – she was an “anti-terror” dog and a decorated “hero” according to The Daily Mail which sports a photo of Diesel with her medals. Twitter went wild. A typical tweet read, “She died to defend our colours”.
What absolute codswallop! She was not a hero, she was not brave, she was not an anti-terror dog. The buzzphrase these days seems to be ‘cognitive dissonance’. The widely varying ways the news of Diesel’s death was discussed is a perfect example. But then, there is always cognitive dissonance when humans think about non-human animals.
Diesel did not believe in the war on terror. She wasn’t defending western democracy and our liberal values. She hadn’t voted to drop bombs on Syria and Iraq. She was being used by humans for their own purposes. And she had no say in it. Unlike the police officers, she had not applied for the job. I’m sure that the officer responsible for her did a wonderful job of looking after her on a day-to-day basis. But the fact remains she was being used against her life’s best interests. She was being used exactly because she was dispensable – sent into danger first to safeguard higher value animals – humans.
People mourn the death of Diesel, like Cecil the lion before her. For both, the ‘bad guys’ are blamed, the Minnesota dentist and now the Jehadi bride. In reality, it is the human race at large which is responsible for both tragic deaths. As long as we as a species hold on to our anthropocentrism, our belief that we are the crowning glory of creation, the top of the evolutionary tree, these memorable deaths will keep on occurring. Along with the unmemorable deaths of other animals who also wanted to live: the billions of cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs, turkeys whose lives are ended prematurely each day by the blood-stained hand of that pinnacle of being, the human.