When we watch our favourite programmes, we may not be too surprised or upset when one of the main/supporting characters is killed in an act of violence. For example, when poor Dale was gutted at the hands of a walking skeleton, we were upset to lose him but we didn’t flood AMC with complaints regarding their nerve to display such violence. To put it simply, we are used to it.
An Irish drama, entitled Love/Hate, recently came under fire when its season four premiere opened with a cat being gunned down by a kid, who subsequently found it funny. The show was flooded with complaints, and animal rights groups quickly stepped out to voice their disgust. Suddenly the Irish public were divided. On one side, you had people who thought it was absolutely disgraceful to show such violence to an innocent animal on-screen. On the other side, you had people who basically said, ‘it’s not real!’
Personally, I don’t like seeing violence towards animals on television, fact or fiction. But it’s got me thinking about the real issue as to why some may consider it unacceptable, when television is full of fictional murders of men, women and children. What makes animals so special? Animals have limited rights in practically every constituency. Murdering an animal in cold blood is either seen as sport, or slapped with a minimal fine. On the other hand, the killing of men, women and children can take away your entire freedom if committed. Perhaps people feel that this is a hindrance to the work of animal rights groups who are trying to discourage such horrible acts.
What has also been considered is the show’s concept of timing. Showing a cat being gunned down on television so close to Halloween was probably not a good idea. Cats are made to suffer most around this time of year, when the sale of fireworks is greatly increased. Each year, animal shelters and fire departments publish pleas for cat owners to keep them inside on Halloween. For strays, they are not so lucky. For any animal lover, cats especially, Halloween is a horrible time of year. And the violence that will be displayed this year may end up coming back on Love/Hate.