My Irish Up: Save the fluff!

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

In late-breaking animal news about late animals:

Nefertiti, the orbiting orb weaver, has bit the space dust. It’s a sad day for those who love spiders. For the rest of us, not so much.

Nefertiti was a jumping spider that orbited the earth hundreds of times on the space station. Interviewed on Animal Planet while still in space, Nefertiti, using eight-legged sign language, said she would go into space again if it would help future generations of spiders to better cope with zero gravity conditions, or could somehow help balance the federal budget. The first two spiders in space, Arabella and Arachne, had died on the job, but Nefertiti actually made it back to Earth, and took up residence in the Smithsonian before succumbing recently to complications of kidney failure and diabetes. Spiders have kidneys? Who knew?

People seem to care about animal life in proportion to the fluffiness of the endangered species. If millions of frogs are dying from increased exposure to UV radiation, everyone’s like, “Ha-ha, oh well — big deal, they’re frogs!” I, a cat lover, see their point. Insects, sure, step on them all, but why would anyone hurt a cat? Cats are so… fluffy. And baby seals, those big innocent eyes! Animal lovers just can't understand people-on-fluffy cruelty.

And spiders? Well, they deserve it, creeping around all day like that. Also locusts, fish, crustaceans, snakes; most cold-blooded creatures, in fact, generate little sympathy. Remember that deadly venomous snake found stretched out across a hiking trail, expired from exposure, last fall down in southern Maine? It apparently had escaped from someone’s private keeping. Still, except for the snake itself, everyone seemed quite happy that it was dead.

With so many species a day going extinct on Planet Earth, it’s kind of strange that a single week-old creature dying, like that baby giant panda at the National Zoo last September, could lead national newscasts. But then you get a look at a picture of that cute little bugger in the zookeeper’s hands and…AAAWWWWWWW! The Cute Factor pegs beyond Overwhelming, all the way to Physically Crippling.

There are special exceptions to the fluffy rule. Size matters, fluffy or no. Whales, for example, the largest mammals on earth, are not fluffy. But they are warm-blooded, they somehow seem maternal and humans find them fascinating. Politically speaking, we love whales; practically speaking, we’re killing them off at an alarming rate. This is what humans do: as a mass, we’re cruel, pragmatic, cold-blooded killers; as individuals, we tend to be carnivorous hypocrites who slather barbecue sauce on defenseless but quite tasty cows and chickens that were raised in cruel pens — and then we go picket somebody else for exterminating the cuter, fluffier species.

The size of the eyeball also has some bearing on whether we even notice if a particular form of animal life is turning toes-up. Big eyes are second to fluffiness on the Awwwww Scale. Large eyeballs alone won’t do it, however — consider the giant squid, which most people, with the exception of third grade boys, find repulsive and scary. (The feeling is mutual, for the squid.) And consider also: when aliens land in most movies they are depicted as scaly, distended, slimy, hairless things, often with large eyes. This last, macro-ocular virtue does them no good, on the lovability scale. In fact, in the movies, people immediately start shooting. (Heck, why stop now?)

If real aliens ever do land on the White House lawn, perhaps ricocheting off a lobbyist, and they’re fluffy and start blinking at us with their awesomely cute helpless eyes, like baby seals, you can bet they'll be welcomed with open arms. Now, President Obama may or may not be warm and fuzzy, but he would have nothing on the fluffy aliens, and we would all be secretly rooting for them. (The Republicans, you can bet, would be rooting more openly.) Yes, our sympathies would be with the space aliens, at least until such time as they wheeled out their Planet Fragmenting Ray. We could try blinking our great big eyes at them, but you have to figure cosmic justice would be served, despite our considerable charms.

Please follow and like us: