Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CATS! (Key West not West End)

You could hardly call me an activist but I do take an interest in animal welfare. I was a vegetarian for years and a member of ‘Compassion in World Farming’ until someone slapped a medium rare fillet steak in front of me at a BBQ about 14 years ago. I don’t know what possessed me to eat it (perhaps I sensed the perfect partnership with the copious amounts of Shiraz I had consumed) but my compassion for animals no longer extends to not eating them! I’m a member of Greenpeace (to offset the guilt for the gas guzzlers I drive)  and until I left the UK I gave a monthly donation to The Blue Cross. Not exactly ‘swampy’ but I care!
On my recent holiday to the lush Keys of Florida I was confronted with a dilemma. Did I go to a hideously commercialised tourist attraction (under the misleading guise of a ‘research centre’) where you could swim with Dolphins? I did get up to walk out of a restaurant that had Dolphin on the menu until the waiter told me it was another name for Mahi Mahi. He couldn’t tell my why they just didn’t call it that instead. You’d never get away with it under the Trade Descriptions Act in England! Is it supposed to make you want to order the dish? I decided that I would feel too sad to see dolphins dragging fat tourists hanging on to their dorsal fins (even though it may well have been very entertaining for all the wrong reasons) and gave it a miss.
While in Miami I read a case of awful animal cruelty which puts the Dolphin Show into perspective.  A Miami man was charged with animal cruelty for leaving a menagerie of animals including roosters, pigeons, goats and a duck locked inside his ‘Bang Bus’. The Bang Bus is used to film a web porn ‘reality show’ where women are picked up to have sex with random men (all played by actors) in the back of the Bang Bus. Surprised there was room with all those animals for actors and a film crew! Raul Armenteros was charged with 22 counts of cruelty for leaving the animals dying in the Bang Bus, over-heating in the +90°F heat. This may be proof positive that there is a fate worse than death. The animals may have had a lucky escape. The perp has stared in 81 Bang Bus films and is known for his ‘prodigious physical talents’. Hanging of a Dorsal fin seems pretty harmless in comparison. I really have lead a sheltered life!
I came across another controversial animal entertainment act that could well be considered cruel (though not of Bang Bus proportions – which by all accounts are epic!). It was a street act in the famous ‘Mallory Square’ in Key West where street performers entertain at sunset. The act in question was a ‘performing cats’ act (not in the ‘Bang Bus’ sense). Cats that jump through fire hoops and perform tricks. Earlier that day I had visited the ‘Hemmingway House’, home of the famous noble prize winner. I saw a plaque that said ‘Dogs have owners, Cats have staff’. Hemingway loved cats. There were cats everywhere with 6 toes on each paw. Weird! I tried to stroke one and it bit me. Clearly the Hemingway cats were not there to literally entertain the tourists! Can you make cats do something they don’t want to do? I guess I myself was guilty of a form of cruelty, even if it was in my cat’s best interests, when I removed a tick from her bum with tweezers. The miaow was pitiful! If I watched the famous Key West Cat man’s show I could be accused of condoning cruelty. If I didn’t watch it I would be making judgement without evidence. I decided to watch. I have to tell you I was so sorry that I did. It is true that the cats seemed to have some sort of choice. They could have just run away but they didn’t, they performed and then climbed back into their little cages but it was so cruel on so many levels:
-          I had to stand in the most humid conditions I have ever experienced to observe the show. I could have been sipping cold wine, watching the sunset
-          I was surrounded by Jhorts of the most shocking kind
-          I could have just run away but I didn’t. Like the cats I seemed unable to make a break for freedom
I was a different person having witnessed the act. I wanted someonte to put me out of my misery. The nature of the cruelty? Well you should experience ‘Dominic the Key West Cat Man’ for yourself to understand it. No one should have to endure such torture and call it entertainment. …But you have to have the sound turned up loud to fully appreciate the nature of the offence. I should stress this is not a case of animal cruelty! The cats are clearly fine, well cared for and DEAF!
Enjoy the clip!


  1. I love the fact that no matter how serious the blog, there's always room for a jhort reference

  2. Still can't sign in on my own blog!

    Jhorts are serious! another form of cruelty! ;)

  3. The man was definatly crazy. How did you manage to stay and watch that bizarre exibition. As for jhorts ,i like wearing mine !!!!.Shall i bring them to Texas with me or would you put me straight back on the plane home.I can't sign in as me either .