by Trudy Frisk
Suddenly we’re surrounded by elections. Candidates list their credentials and promote their platforms. The media praise or chastise them. Yet no one addresses the truly important electoral question; should animals have the vote?
Not wild animals—too difficult to organize, but domestic animals have been part of the human experience for millennia. Shouldn’t they have a neigh in federal, provincial and municipal elections?
I can hear the rumblings. “There’s a surplus of jackasses in politics now, and there are already too many pigs at the public trough!” May I remind you, those are people you’re speaking of. They aren’t animals, nor did animals vote for them.
Some people believe voting animals would make wiser choices. Should animals have the vote? Here are some responses:
“Cats, yes. They know what’s going on, probably instinctively, and they have the answers. They don’t have to wait to see who’s popular or even who’s running.”
“Absolutely, they are the rational ones.”
“It depends on the animal. Some animals are as stupid as people; others have superior intellects and would do a better job. “
“Of course they should. Many species, such as the Great Pyrenees are bred to think for themselves and take responsibility.”
Not everyone gave unconditional support:
“They should vote for other animals, but not for people. “
For others, “no” was ‘no”: “They should be treated well but not vote.”
Some worried about consequences:
“Unlike humans animals don’t raise armies or kill except for survival. They might vote to eliminate humans.”
That was countered by; “They wouldn’t. They enjoy warm indoor places where they’re fed and cared for, safe from predators.”
One reason for not letting them vote was: “We own them. They are totally dependant on us. They act from emotion; not logic.” Hmm? Weren’t siilar excuses given decades ago for not allowing women to vote?
Animal contributions to human well-being were cited as reasons to give them recognition. “Animals have done human-kind a favour by being part of their landscape over the centuries. Cats hunt mice and rats. Dogs guard us and our homes. Animals are good companions. Studies show people who have animals live longer happier lives. They even help lower our blood pressure.”
Economic contributions by animals aren’t fully recognized. Costs of food, veterinary care, and accessories for domestic pets total in the millions. Granted, these are arms-length economic factors, people spending money on their cherished animals. Add in the direct value of farm animals; dairy cows, poultry, pigs, beef cattle, horses, sheep, and all the services and supplies they need. Animals are a truly significant part of the Canadian economy.
When a government does something humans don’t like we mutter “Just wait till the next election!” Yet, how many politicians ever mention animals? It’s time they were heard and heeded.
There’ll have to be planning and organizing. Keep voting simple. No electoral reform. The ‘First-Past-The-Post’ system we now use will suit animals. Whether they’re in flocks of geese, or herds of horses, animals usually have leaders. A senior gander has charge and keeps watch for threats to the flock. Stallions defend their herds. Head mares chose locations for other mares and their foals. Animals accept that with power goes responsibility, a principle of government. Any attempt to change this would just result in confusion. The ‘Single Transferable Vote’ system is too complicated for most humans, let alone laying chickens, to understand.
Sheep, people assume, would just bleat “Baaa!” to the whole matter. We might be surprised. Given a secret ballot and the chance to vote without the whole flock knowing for whom, they might develop some independence.
There is a possibility of deepening the rural/urban split. Pampered city canines in wool jackets and rainproof booties may vote differently from country herd and guard dogs, which they likely outnumber. So be it. That’s democracy. As always, we hope city dogs remember where their food comes from.
It’s been tried before. In Britain, Brenda Gould, from Newmarket, near Cambridge, twice registered her two cows, Henry and Sophie Bull, on the voters’ list. The first year she also included her dog, Jake Woofles as a qualified voter. The East Cambridgeshire District Council didn’t welcome this as a chance to broaden electoral representation. Ms. Gould was fined $25l.00 and ordered to pay $110.00 court costs. “The Council felt it was necessary to take action to prevent this abuse of the election system from continuing.”, said the Council’s senior legal assistant. It’s always most difficult for the pioneers.
Should animals vote? A Kamloops resident sums up: “Horses display no corruption, dishonesty or treachery. They’re forthright; if you come too close to them, they’ll kick, but that’s your fault. Sure, let them vote!”