You may already have seen this picture which has spread like wildfire across the internet. I’m ashamed to say I shared the common initial response to the story—laughter at the foolishness of consumers looking for bargains. Fortunately, as I learned more of the facts of the deeper crime committed here became apparent, and the humor was displaced by sympathy.
So, just what does this image show? Apparently in Argentina, some criminals have devised a very profitable type of deception. They sell cute toy poodles at a fraction of typical prices.
The only problem with this transaction, is that when owners take their puppies in for vaccinations, the veterinarians have to break the news to them that what they really purchased is not a poodle . . . but a ferret.
How in the world could someone confuse the two, you doubtless wonder. After all, one is Canis lupus familiaris (canine) and the other is Mustela putorius furo (weasel)!
The thieves go to extremes to camouflage their crime. In addition to grooming their fur in similar ways, apparently they abbreviate the poor creatures lives by loading them with steroids as soon as they are born. This adds bulk to disguise the slinky build of these crepuscular mammals that are closely related to polecats. [Don’t feel bad, I had to look up “crepuscular” myself; it refers to animals most active during dawn and twilight hours.]
From the photo you can see the “subtle” differences. I suppose the vendor could explain some of them away with comments like “the muzzle of really young puppies always looks slightly pointed, until they mature.”
While I despise theft, I can chuckle at the thought of someone’s jaw dropping at the news of how they were duped—but I do not regard as at all humorous the suffering inflicted on those innocent creatures.
I don’t own one of the estimated 800,000 domestic ferrets that are part of American families. That doesn’t prevent me, though, from being angered by the cruelty of man toward a species with which humanity has enjoyed a cooperative relationship since before the days of Caesar Augustus. (Augustus shipped ferrets to the Balearic Islands to control a rabbit infestation in 6 BC.)
Some readers might consider my concern for mere weasels as misguided. I believe they are wrong. As C.S. Lewis wrote to a correspondent in 1956:
I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. We love everything in one way too much (i.e. at the expense of our love for Him) but in another way we love everything too little. No person, animal, flower, or even pebble, has ever been loved too much—i.e. more than every one of God’s works deserves.
It should come as no surprise that the creator of Narnia gave much thought to humanity’s relationship with the other creatures with which the Lord has populated our world. God in the Dock includes his fine essay on “Vivisection.”
After weighing the arguments for and against experimentation on animals, Lewis suggests that our justifications for doing so are often dehumanizing.
The reason why we do not dare [to strongly object to experimentation on higher life forms in the animal kingdom] is that the other side has in fact won. And though cruelty even to beasts is an important matter, their victory is symptomatic of matters more important still.
The victory of vivisection marks a great advance in the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law; a triumph in which we, as well as animals, are already the victims, and of which Dachau and Hiroshima mark the more recent achievements. In justifying cruelty to animals we put ourselves also on the animal level. We choose the jungle and must abide by our choice.
I pray that the Argentinean authorities are able to dismantle this abominable trade. And I also hope they will not only prosecute the perpetrators of the crime for theft . . . but for the far more morally corrupt crime of cruelty to animals as well.