April 16, 2007

He said "three times that he has a Shih Tzu, nine times that his late wife named the dog Trouble, and three times that he prefers to call it Baby."

It's very strange how much attention the pet food contamination story has gotten in the press, as I said that in the last podcast, where I asked if I was just imagining that I saw a Senate hearing on the subject on C-Span. In the comments to the podcast post, XWL says that not only were there hearings, but that they're "the best thing you'll ever watch on the web. Sen. Byrd is amazing. It's indescribable."

The quote in the title up there is from the Dana Milbank column, which goes on:
"She sleeps on my bed," said Byrd, in his 90th year and prone to meandering. "She goes with me to the Senate, rides in the car with me. She stays in my office. When somebody comes into the office, she rises and comes over and greets them, goes on about her business and gets back on the couch."
You have to hear the whole thing to get the effect. You can find it on this C-Span page (from April 12). Fast forward to 39:07. This is the most ridiculous 10 minutes of congressional hearing I've ever seen.

Laugh at Byrd all you want -- and you will want -- but it's not just him. People are absurdly emotional about their pets. I would have thought it would be embarrassing to dwell on tainted pet food for so long. There are so many problems in the world, so many human beings suffering. How can the media go on and on about a few dogs dying? I know, I know: I'm always blogging about all sorts of foolish things that capture my attention for whatever idiosyncratic reason. But mainstream media and Congress ought to have some priorities -- some proportion.

30 comments:

XWL said...

Dana Milbank didn't convey the way Byrd pronounced, "Siiiih Tuuuu" very well.

I thought about YouTubing this to make it easier to share when I first watched it on Saturday, but got lazy (getting content from my parents dvr to my computer not impossible, but not easy, either)

Figured some levity was needed today.

(and you are going to catch hell for not understanding how bonded folks get with their 'furry children')

Internet Ronin said...

I have not followed the story closely, but the reports I saw indicated that there was reason to believe the food was contaminated in China. The question is: was it purposeful?

A few years ago, a Chinese-military-owned manufacturer shipped a generic version of liquid cold & flue medicine for children around the world. It was a nice green color. Unfortunately for the Haitian children who consumed it and died from it, it was, in fact, anti-freeze. I believe that either 60 Minutes or 20/20 did an espose about it.

So, is this overkill? Not if it was your pet that died. Not if it was your child that died. Make it a cause celebré by all means. Shine a light on the disreputable Chinese manufacturers of these products. I'll bet the pet food manufacturer is military or state-owned as well. No accountability, no enforcable standards, and no compunction about killing people or their pets in the quest for profits to fatten the already fat cats running the state and the military.

Beth said...

Ann, this could just as easily have been something in our own food supply. Part of this story is based on the feeling that our food industry is vulnerable to intentional harm, and to insufficient regulation.

Okay, that sounds mature and rational. But mainly, I'd want to bash my brains out against a stone wall if I gave my pets something to nourish them and it turned out to kill them. I'm responsible for their well-being. I'm considering making their food in the future, if it appears that this is not an isolated incident.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, Beth, if you did bash you brains out against a stone wall, and you had any pets left, your corpse would be pet food. Those dogs and cats are not sentimental.

Joe said...

There is no mystery here, I don't know why there needs to be hearings. The pet food was contaminated due to poor quality control in chinese factories. It wasn't anything sinister, just incompetence.

LoafingOaf said...

You don't think it's a big deal that millions of people were walking into grocery stores and buying food items that were tainted and actually caused sickness and death? What are you talking about? It could just as easily have been human food that was tainted. Congress should definitely be spending time on this, and when people speak about their dogs and cats being members of their family they are being sincere and it seems perfectly rational to me.

People are absurdly emotional about their dogs and cats? Why is it absurd to have strong emotions for living, feeling, intelligent animal companions? And to be up in arms about tainted food being sold for them?

Yes, you, as well, don't just focus your blog on the biggest problems in the world related to human suffering, so all you're really saying is you don't care about this issue because you don't relate to people who love their pets. And it wasn't just "a few" dogs. Thousands got sick. And millions of Americans love their pets and we demand their representatives fix this food problem. The quality of food sold in our stores is a big deal. I can think of a million things the media and Congress spend time on that I don't give a crap about. The quality of the food supply is not one of them.

LoafingOaf said...

Well, Beth, if you did bash you brains out against a stone wall, and you had any pets left, your corpse would be pet food.

My dog gets quite clearly concerned when anything is wrong with me.

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth said...

Ann, I've thought of that many times before. I realize I'm just potential food. Lab tests indicate that I am uncontaminated.

Beth said...

LoafingOaf,

Concerned, or intrigued?

Joe said...

Good grief, we have the safest food supply in the history of mankind. Sometimes shit happens. Get over it; the last thing we need is a whole new set of absurd government regulations and oversight.

Internet Ronin said...

On second read, this post strikes me as exceptionally frigid and uncaring. No compassion. No empathy. So it's just something to make fun of - that some lonely widow or widower lost their one "true friend" thanks to greed and incompetence. Utterly heartless.

Torn ligament said...

'You don't think it's a big deal that millions of people were walking into grocery stores and buying food items that were tainted and actually caused sickness and death? What are you talking about? It could just as easily have been human food that was tainted.'

Easily! The contaminated wheat gluten was food grade. It's not strange at all that this situation is receiving the coverage it is. It would be irresponsible to not do so. Was Althouse dismissive of the Tylenol scare?

Torn ligament said...

'Utterly heartless.'

Pretty cold, I agree. Obviously, no feminist breasts were involved making it embarrassing and booorrring.

Is it absurd for people to be emotional about their children?

Joe said...

Was Althouse dismissive of the Tylenol scare?

She should have been and for just reason. It was mass hysteria, like the poisoned halloween candy nonsense in the 70s and 80s.

Dan said...

Ann, I'm an avid reader of your blog but never comment. This post has shocked me into commenting--if that was your intention, then bravo. :)

I think PETA is dangerously moronic and understand lab testing of animals is necessary and beneficial. That said, I'm a dog person. When I adopted my dog it was with a promise that I would care for him. For life. I take that responsibility seriously. Far too many people adopt pets seemingly because they feel it is something they should do and the pet ends up tied to a stake in the backyard and neglected for years on end.

My pets responsibility is to behave and give unconditional love. My responsibilities include not feeding my pet poison. Thankfully, I avoided the recent problems but I would have been angry beyond words if I had ended up killing my dog because of the contaminated food.

Noting that there is human suffering in the world is irrelevant. I spend hundreds of dollars a year on pet food, medical bills, etc. I could of course put my dog down and spend that money donating to human aid charities. I don't because quite frankly it is more important to me that my dog is happy and healthy than trying in vain to cure all the worlds ills. The attitude you displayed in your post would suggest that pet ownership is a luxury we can't as a society afford until Africa is cured of AIDS, India of hunger, Iraq of violence, etc. And that, I find, is a ridiculous assumption.

Mark said...

Count me among disappointed with this post. It's very cold.
As the fox said to the Little Prince from the story by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: we are responsible for what we have tamed. I would feel very very bad if something happened to my cat because I gave her poisoned food.

True, pet owners have very strong emotional attachment to animals. It would be absurd if they DID NOT have the emotional attachment.

lurker2209 said...

People being absurdly attached to their animals is fine. I have enough trouble keeping houseplants alive, but I can understand the impulse. This baffles me but to each his own.

What bothers me, is the idea of our lawmakers allowing their emotional attachment, at times bordering on hysteria, to influence the legislative process. Of course it would also be bad if all our lawmakers were emotionless automatons, but I really don't think the details of the Senator's affection for his dog contribute to the needed investigation of the food supply. Save it for the press conference, the stump speech.

Ann Althouse said...

Internet Ronin said..."On second read, this post strikes me as exceptionally frigid and uncaring. No compassion. No empathy. So it's just something to make fun of - that some lonely widow or widower lost their one "true friend" thanks to greed and incompetence. Utterly heartless."

Oh, bullshit! I'm not making fun of the dog owner being sad. I'm making fun of Congress and mainstream media for dwelling on this story out of all proportion!

tjl said...

Ann, Ronin is right. Your frigid and uncaring post questions why the media should "go on about a few dogs dying." How insensitive to the feelings of canine-Americans. My dog Blanche was indignant when I read it to her.

Ann Althouse said...

Your dog Blanche is a bitch.

Internet Ronin said...

People are absurdly emotional about their pets. I would have thought it would be embarrassing to dwell on tainted pet food for so long. There are so many problems in the world, so many human beings suffering. How can the media go on and on about a few dogs dying?

ShadyCharacter said...

I'm a dog owner and I'd be very sad if my dog died from contaminated dog food. In fact, I threw away some canned food from the tainted batch. I spend extra money to feed my dog wet food, so I must be a big softie,right?
But I totally agree with Ann on this. If my dog dies, I'd be devastated. If your dog dies... meh. If 10,000 pets die across the country... meh. We probably lose 10,000+ dogs/cats each day on the streets. Only the absurd oversentimentalization of "our" pets can explain what's going on with this story. They're not kids. They only live a few years anyway. etc...
But that hand knit sweater you've got Buster in is really very cute.
I guess I'd feel a little bad for the individual pet owners, but just that sort of low grade, "that's too bad, life sucks sometimes" kind of sad.

Paul Snively said...

"They only live a few years anyway."

Yeah. 18, in the case of my orange-and-white tabby. My first wife and I got him when he was a kitten, shortly after we had married. I was 21.

His getting lost and found in the apartment courtyard after a fall from the balcony, a move from Illinois to Silicon Valley, his getting lost and found in the apartment complex, a divorce, countless jobs, a move from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles, a remarriage, countless jobs, and a home purchase later, I noticed that his stomach was distended and took him to the vet. Long story short: liver cancer. We drained him a few times, got the diagnosis confirmed, and finally had him euthanized. I was 39.

Let me assure you that only my divorce was worse.

Jennifer said...

One of the reasons why I continue to follow and be interested in this story is that it keeps growing. If it had been "okay, here's what happened, here's what food got contaminated" and that was the end of it, that would have been one thing. But "here's the list. No wait, here's the updated list - this is all of it. Woops, here's the latest list. Oh, um, can we add just one more thing?"

It's not that far off from being told that we shouldn't eat green onions because they may be tainted. Oh, wait a minute - did we say green onions? We meant any onions. Oh, wait - onions and radishes. Have we mentioned turnips?

Okay, so it's dog and cat food - will you care more if it was a service animal and not "just" the dog that keeps my dad company all day?

aandrews said...

I can sense from your remarks that you're among the subset of people that view other animals as animatronic gadgets.

When I read that the source of the poison in the tainted pet food was from a Chinese supplier, and later read that the implicated supplier referred to the whole matter as a "rumor," it immediately summoned up the image I saw on the Net some time ago of dinks going around clubbing dogs--ALL dogs--on the streets in China, in response to an outbreak of rabies. As the report described, people walking their dogs had their pets beaten to death before their eyes.

I'm curious, do you consider that a reasonable response in order to safeguard the commonweal? {blink-blink}

You say that "there are so many problems in the world, so many human beings suffering." Well, it seems a lot of the problems in the world have a human pedigree. And besides, talking chimpanzees aren't the most endearing animal on the planet anyway.

LoafingOaf said...

No wonder that cat bit Althouse. Animals sense things about people.

Those of you mocking people who supposedly are "absurd" for having strong emotions about their dogs and cats have yet to explain why Congress shouldn't be holding hearings on apparent and dangerous FDA incompetance, problems in our food safety, and why Menu Foods took weeks to notify the FDA of problems.

And BTW millions of pet owners in America remain confused about what's going on, as yet more brands of pet food were just recalled yesterday. I commend Dick Durbin for taking the lead on this important issue.

Beth said...

We're still going on about, sans embarrassment, because they're adding to the list of contaminated foods. My brand was added this morning, and I have a vet appointment this afternoon to get blood tests on my dogs. How anyone can dismiss the concerns and press coverage as some sort of silly faux pas is beyond me. Government isn't good for much, but regulation is part of its job. And if you actually read any of the coverage, you'd know more than a few pets have died.

howzerdo said...

Count my among the "absurdly emotional." And not just about my own pets, but about animals in general. I want to know every detail of this story and I'm glad some members of Congress are concerned. I really like this blog, but animals are one of the topics you about which you occasionally post where I invariably disagree with your perspective. I suspect that most people who don't have pets are not the same species as those of us who love animals. To those on the same page as me, switch your beloveds to a homemade diet. I've been cooking for my animals for years and it isn't that difficult.

Beth said...

howzerdo, I'm starting a homemade diet today. My dogs' bloodwork was fine, still waiting on other tests. They're both allergic to beef, so I'm having to use venison, duck and/lamb. I'm considering getting them a paper route so they can contribute toward their very expensive lifestyle.