I guess many of you have heard of Miracle, the incredible canine winner of the ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent show. Miracle and his owner performed captivating magic tricks on stage in front of a massive audience to win over the judges who were in tears following his performance. However, it was his life story that really captured people’s hearts. Miracle BGT
The press reported headlines; ‘The incredible story of the dog saved from Thailand’s illegal meat trade who ended up on Britain’s Got Talent’ (Manchester Evening News). They described how he was ‘snatched from death’ after being crammed onto a truck loaded with other stolen dogs, destined for the Thai meat markets.
Luckily for Miracle, the truck was intercepted by the Phuket based animal welfare charity, The Soi Foundation , and he was eventually adopted by his current owner, who lives in Edinburgh with thirty nine other dogs.
There is no question that Miracle was probably saved from a cruel and untimely death but his appearance on a television show raises questions for me. Should animals be there at all? Is there still a place for animals in show business? Is it ethical, or moral?
Dogs are not TV actors. They do not choose to go into a television career but are made or conditioned to these roles by humans. They may have to travel long distances to get to work locations and are asked to perform tricks or behaviours in often uncomfortable environments, just for human entertainment, money and notoriety.
The anthropomorphic representation of Miracle performing card tricks is another way in which we assume a humanness of him rather than seeing his ‘dogness’. Non-human animals are anthropomorphised when they are given any of these characteristics:
- Ability to communicate by speaking or reading
- Show human emotions such as smiling or crying
- Appear humanlike by being dressed in clothes
- Doing something only humans would do
Miracle’s story as told by the press seems to have some kind of xenophobic moral tale; the bad dog eating people of Thailand, compared to the compassionate dog rescuing types in the UK. But human animal interactions are far too complex to draw such simple conclusions. This prize-winning pup has become a timely trope for the virtuous West in a time of a pandemic that has reportedly emerged from the East.
This whole scenario appears to be just another form of exploitation. An excuse for his owner to gain praise and notoriety for saving him, for the audience and fans of the show to use him to criticise cultural practises they know little about. The hypocrisy being that the majority will annually contribute to the deaths of billions of animals through the meat industry that is so prevalent in Western culture.
In all of this, surrounded by this overwhelming tsunami of attention, is a dog. A dog who just wants to be a dog. My heart aches for him as much now, as when I think of him in the truck heading to Phuket.