From the editor
// Samantha Thompson

People are ugly; animals are cute. When I’m looking at an advertisement for anything, I’d rather see the adorable faces of innocent puppies and kittens than some stiff corporation owner baring his bleached teeth at the camera. Even if the corporate owner was someone as cute as, say, Colin Firth. Western society just loves animals, sometimes more than we seem to love our human counterparts.

This is likely the reason why, when a farm of exotic pets recently went to the dogs, the public didn’t care about the farm’s owner who had just committed suicide. No, our eyes were all turned to the Bengal tigers, baboons, and lions that were let loose by Terry Thompson, the owner of the private Muskingum County Animal Farm in Ohio, before he took his own life. Of the 56 animals from the farm, 49 have been shot by the sheriff’s deputies, which has caused a serious rage response from animal lovers. Caring more about dead animals than dead humans is a common occurence. Animals need to be protected, defendants say, because they can’t speak for themselves. And because we love animals so much, politicians know that animals are the quickest way to appeal to voters.

With the Vancouver municipal election approaching, candidates are working hard to make sure their campaign platforms are getting heard. Gregor Robertson and his team are talking about issues like affordable housing and homelessness, becoming a green city with initiatives like backyard chickens, generating the job market, and making neighbourhoods safer. Suzanne Anton and the NPA are putting their efforts towards homelessness, a Vancouver streetcar, and one of their candidates, Jason Lamarche, is advocating to ban the retail sale of dogs, which, among other things, will work to combat puppy mills. Lamarche, it says in his profile, is a lover of dogs.

Hey, so am I! Which is precisely why dogs appear in the NPA’s platform. By advocating for the ban of the sale of dogs sold in pet stores, Lamarche is proving himself to be a very good politician. Despite the fact that we have significant social problems in Vancouver, addressing them doesn’t capture people’s hearts. By including dogs in his platform, Lamarche is implying that he will advocate for those fluffy, loveable, adorable, wide-eyed creatures without a voice of their own. And really, who could vote against that?

Lamarche isn’t the first politician to push puppies. The White House’s administration has owned a slew of dogs over the years, the latest member being Bo, the Obama family’s pooch. William Lyon Mackenzie King was the proud owner of many Irish terriers, and the Queen of England has a thing for corgis. Owning a pet and making it part of your family makes any photo opportunity instantly more heartwarming. Animals can turn any cold and unapproachable politician into a relateable, compassionate individual.

Take Stephen Harper, for example. Not known for his cuddliness, Canada’s Prime Minister has made his love for cats well-known, even before his days in office. Last year he even held a poll on Facebook to let Canadians decide what to name the newest four-legged member of his family (the voters were overwhelmingly in favour of Stanley). Arguably one of the most famous pictures of Stephen Harper is the one where he is cradling an innocent orange kitten in his open palm. His left hand is tickling the kitten’s little tummy, and together they’re quite a convincing pair.

Oh, wait. The kitten doesn’t make Stephen Harper look cuddly at all. The kitten looks utterly perturbed. But yet this friendly photo-op is working, and people assume that the PM does have a heart, because he loves cats.

I love animals as much than the next person (maybe more, actually, I have a folder on my computer called “cute animal pics”), but they shouldn’t be used as political pawns to help individuals get elected. Animal issues should also not be prioritized over all of the human rights concerns that are going on. Come up with solutions to our unappealing social issues, and you will get my vote.

Animals are cute, but that doesn’t mean they get to be the focus of electoral campaigns and media broadcasts. Certainly, they’re not at the forefront for everybody, but they’re always there, lurking in the corner, prepared to show their fuzzy faces when the campaign is starting to slip into the dog house. Don’t forget, however, that Suzanne Anton wants us to elect her because she’s a woman and we’ve never had a “woman mayor” in Vancouver. So while voting someone in based on their love of dogs may be extremely fickle, at least it's better than voting someone in only because of their gender.

//Samantha Thompson, editor-in-chief

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