Monday, 17 May 2010

If animals could vote

For left-wing voters, there does not seem to be a big choice in the coming presidential elections. Both major candidates, Bronisław Komorowski (Civic Platform) and Jarosław Kaczyński (Law and Justice) happen to be right-wingers. Their is no substantial difference in what they say on the war in Afghanistan, NATO, nuclear energy, women's and LGBT rights, relations between the State and the Church, and so on. There is a trade union link in the case of Kaczyński, making him look a bit more "pro-social" of the two, but he is far from the "one-nation Conservative" image of his late brother Lech. Although he is visibly more cautious about privatisation than Komorowski, and much more supportive of the public health care system, he still boasts about his government having lowered taxes (for the rich, to be sure). Even those differences taken into account, no impressive choice for a progressive voter anyway.

Oddly enough, this creates an occasion for hitherto neglected topics to come into the fore. The issue of animal rights, or rather of the complex relations between humans and animals, appears to be quite important. At least, it enables one to really distinguish between the two main rivals. One of them lives with a cat, while the other is a devoted hunter. As it can be seen on the banner profligated by the (hitherto unknown) Animal Protection Party:


The fact of Komorowski's killing animals for pleasure is being raised not only by animal rights activists, but also by some of his right wing opponents. The pro-Kaczyński "Rzeczpospolita" published at least two cartoons about the hunting candidate (both by Andrzej Krauze). One of them displays a "Honorary Committee of support for the Hunter" in form of a row of hanged animal corpses, while the other represents voting as a unanimous action by a herd of frightened-to-death animals.

The other side raises the issue of human-animal relations as well. Last Sunday, on the inauguration of the Honorary Committee of support for Komorowski, Professor Władysław Bartoszewski (Poland's former minister of foreign affairs) made an allusion to Kaczyński's being a bachelor: "If Poland is to be degraded to the Rwanda's or Burundi's level of world's attention, it would be the best reason to vote for a man who has the experience in raising fur-bearing animals, but does not have the experience of being a father." This is a wonderful example of how racist, homophobic, and speciesist formulations may still pave their way into the mainstream of respectable political discourse. Though I would not bet it helps.

Anyway, it is fascinating to watch how new topics emerge as a means to make a difference between the two otherwise so similar rivals. I am going to watch it carefully. And as you may have already guessed, I would be more than happy to cede my vote to one of my cats this time...

P.S. Today's news (Thursday, 19 May): Komorowski gives up hunting. Good news. Maybe animals cannot vote, but it seems they sometimes do count.

Adam Ostolski
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