Why do people dress in animal costumes

Animal love under the microscope: where should the line be drawn?

April 30, 2018 April 27, 201800

Do you know those big, cute - and sometimes also annoying - mascots who walk around in pedestrian zones in huge animal costumes and hand out flyers? Why - apart from those who simply haven't got a better job - do people do this to themselves and regularly force themselves into such animal costumes for Carnival and other festivities?

For many animals, dressing up and imitating is part of their survival strategy: They use it to attract prey, protect themselves from predators or impress potential partners. But after all, that doesn't apply to us humans?

Why do we dress up as animals?

From an educational point of view, it is extremely important for three to five-year-olds to slip into different roles, because this is the only way they can learn to empathize with other people. Experts call this phase, in which the children transform themselves into different beings several times a day with infinite seriousness, the “magical phase of development”.

Adults can no longer slip into other roles so quickly. Or, if they appear in the office in rabbit suits, they would quickly find themselves with their superiors. But the desire to be someone else remains: plush has recently become popular with men of creation, and kangaroo and elephant costumes are in demand. Because we choose a particular life, we are forced to exclude other things. The feeling Oh - that's how I would have liked to be I'm sure many know.

People as animals, animals as people. That inevitably leads us to the question of humanization. Of course, animals do not feel personally attacked or offended by dressing up for Mardi Gras, but it is nevertheless appropriate to think about where the line should be drawn between love for animals and humanization.

What do we mean by humanization anyway?

We humans serve our four-legged friends “premium food” with pumpkin, cranberries and whole wheat pasta, put them in winter coats and cute little shoes and celebrate their birthdays. Dogs may then be surprised because costumes, anniversaries and parties are not part of their concept of life and are meaningless to them. But when a person is happy, “his” dog is happy.

With the "humanization" becomes the positive meaning of the word human thrown overboard and replaced by an exaggerated egoism that ignores the needs of the being entrusted to him and makes them the object of his wishes (whether as a fashion accessory, first-class sports partner or cuddly toy). In other words, it describes a person's handling of his (domestic) animal that is assessed as inappropriate by outsiders.

When it is no longer about the animal but only about our own needs, the limit has been reached. But where this transition lies is - in the truest sense of the word - a matter of interpretation. Some consider it reprehensible if the dog is allowed to cuddle up to his person on the couch or in bed. For many, talking to or dealing with the cat as with your child or partner is a sign that something is wrong with their coexistence. Others denounce an anti-authoritarian style of upbringing as the cause of a lack of socialization.

Humanize people, condemn dogs

What we do for our darlings are basically all innocent things that have to do with the fact that we like to spoil those we love. What can be wrong with that?

One of the negative sides of humanization is the fallacy that the animal would intentionally act badly and that is why it should be punished - because it is "guilty". "He knows very well that he is not allowed to do that," you hear. These people actually believe that their four-legged friends act out of spite and see themselves confirmed by the fact that it looks as if the dog has a guilty conscience. A cat cannot be stubborn or offended: this is typical human behavior. And a dog that is left alone suffers from boredom or fear of loss and does not act out of revenge if it goes into the house, scratches things or howls as a result. We personally resent the neighbor dog when he growls at our darling and we tend to argue with him like a child.

We mistake our pets for ourselves, measure them according to human standards and give them away again when they cannot meet our expectations: the number of dogs that due to circumstances looking for a new home is high.

But do we have any other choice? Hardly, as the philosopher Xenophanes recognized around 500 BC. He found that believers could believe better if they imagined their gods to be similar to humans. From a radical point of view, we humanize everything from gods to beetles, because we can only think and understand the world as humans with our human brain. We relate our human ideas to the behavior of other animals in the same way that dogs dogged us.

Humanization can also be great happiness

Sometimes I look into the dark, thoughtful eyes of “my” cat and recognize in her my better self, my quiet soul mate. This shift in perception lasts about until she, with an expression of enthusiasm, puts a half-alive mouse with peeping intestines in front of the front door - then I remember that she is a cat.

What is the opposite of humanization? The objectification. We had that for a long time: animals have no feelings, they are objects and cannot think. Since we have allowed them to have a soul, to think, feel, and suffer like us, we have been taking better care of them. Since we have recognized them as individual personalities with a consciousness, we have assumed moral responsibility. So it is lucky that we now have a certain degree of humanization.

Talking to your pet is not a problem (although, like humans, they might stop listening if we text them all the time). They may look enthusiastically, but in reality what they are most of all listening to is the noises we make. They react to our body language, tone of voice and charisma. And when they like us, they find our voice soothing. Dogs are able to understand commands and know that they have done something well when there is a treat. So of course: you and some animals cannot be denied a certain understanding, but the whole thing becomes a problem when we are convinced that our animals think the same way as we do.

Some may now ask themselves: Who cares whether my cat has more food bowls than I have jeans or whether my dog ​​is in his basket or next to me on the couch? Why worry about such apparent trivialities while animal suffering is disproportionately much greater worldwide?

The answer is easy to find:

It's about our basic understanding that we have about animals. Towards “our” dogs and cats as well as everyone else who has feelings and a soul. Love for animals should manifest itself through the love for the animal world as such and not for an individual animal. But that does not mean that we are no longer allowed to love our “pets”.

According to this logic, an animal lover is not the one who takes an apparently abandoned baby bird home without first observing it in peace to see whether it has really fallen out of the nest. Rather, an animal lover is someone who is actively committed to ensuring that 100 more birds have a better chance of raising their offspring.

Utopian? For sure. But utopias always shed an interesting light on the present in which they arise, and at best make a rethinking possible in the first place.

Keywords relationship, carnival, pet, dog, cat, human-animal relationship, love of animals, animal rights, disguise, humanization