“The animal, the animal. Trap, trap, trap til the cage is full. The cage is full, the day is new and everyone is waiting, waiting on you.”
Regina Spektor sings the intro to the Netflix phenomenon Orange is the New Black, ‘You’ve Got Time’. The lyrics liken prisoners serving time to animals trapped in a cage.
Animals in cages is a completely familiar concept, we trap them up in Zoos, stables, barns, theme parks and carnivals, along with a multitude of other environments. Some of these animals we trap and raise for harvest, some are taught tricks for entertainment and others we trap simply to observe. The song’s opening lines don’t make me feel uncomfortable because trapping animals in cages is not unusual… however what if Spektor didn’t use a metaphor in the lyrics?
“The prisoners, the prisoners. Trap, trap, trap til the cage is full.”
I can’t speak for you, but for me, although we’ve humanised the characters being trapped, allowing the audience to know they’re prisoners takes away a lot of the empathy I would feel for a person being trapped in a cage. No I’m not saying we should put prisoners in small animals sized cages, but a cell is basically a human sized cage, and they’re in ‘cages’ for a reason. But what if we describe the main character by physical appearance, rather than by her current social status?
“Pretty blonde girl, pretty blonde girl. Trap, trap, trap til the cage is full.”
Now things are starting to feel a little off… Trapping up pretty blonde girls definitely doesn’t sound right. Imagine a cage full of Piper Chapmans. Now imagine the pretty blonde girl living in a barn. Not one of those luxurious renovated barns, but a dirty, smelly one used to house animals. Imagine her in a chicken coup or being forced to do tricks in a carnival and being locked back up in her cage with all the pretty blonde girls after. These scenarios don’t feel so comfortable do they?
As humans there seems to be a general assumption that because we have opposable thumbs, languages and the ability to build in a more structured and sophisticated way than any other species that we are superior to animals. That it is okay for us to rule them and that they are powerless in decision making. The documentary Blackfish highlights human’s ruling of Orca’s, the largest living marine mammal in the dolphin family. Tilikum, the documentaries antagonist spends almost his entire life in captivity, being trained by humans to perform shows at water parks SeaLand and SeaWorld. Tilikum becomes agitated multiple times throughout his life, he is angry that he is being kept in a confined space, that he is only being fed when he performs a ‘trick’ right and that things just aren’t going his own way… she he retaliates, and he kills.
If Tilikum were human, a small boy for arguments sake who is raised to perform, when the boy was old enough to decide he did not want to perform on one particular day, but was forced by his trainers anyway, retaliation would only seem natural.
I find it enraging that we don’t give animals any of the rights we receive as humans. I understand they (as far as we are aware) do not have the intelligence level that we have, but they are living, breathing creatures who should be able to live and breathe in their natural habitats. I do not believe that using animals as a form of entertainment value for humans is
fair, however I do not predict that carnivals, theme parks and zoos are going to be shut down any time soon. I’m not claiming that animals in the world’s famous zoos are being mistreated… I’m questioning whether zoos and the like are entirely ethical.
PETA or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is the largest animal rights organisation in the world. PETA opposes zoos as caged and cramped enclosures deprive animals the opportunity to satisfy their most basic needs. Read more here.
If you’re yet to understand the point I’m trying to make in this post I’ll explain it simply; we wouldn’t put a bunch of children in cages and behind glass windows to observe and gawk at, so why are we doing it to animals who are almost always powerless to defend themselves against human intelligence?