Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ask Aunt Tillie: How Can Amish Be So Cruel?

Blogger's Note: Since this blog is somewhat Amishcentric, I get questions from time to time from readers about Amish life and culture, which I refer to my Aunt Tillie, an opinionated, but humble Amish woman. Here is a recent question and answer. Please leave a comment or email me if you have questions you want me to refer to her in the future.

Dear Aunt Tillie:

I used to admire Amish for their quiet simplicity and peacefulness. But now I am hearing about the two Amish brothers in Pennsylvania who were running puppy mills, and shot 80 dogs after state officials ordered veterinarian examinations of some of the dogs who appeared to be in bad shape. (Blogger's note: See story here.) How can a pacifistic people be so cruel? Will those puppy killers be expelled from the church?

(Signed) Horrified

Dear Horrified:

I hate to be the first to tell you this, but stupidity and cruelty are no respecter of religions. Not all Amish operate puppy mills, and not all of them would rather shoot 80 dogs than have them inspected by a veterinarian. I don't know if their church will excommunicate those brothers, but it should.

This is not an excuse, but Amish do not have the same attitude towards animals that the English do. (Blogger's note: When Aunt Tillie refers to "English" she does not mean people from England. In the Amish world, everyone who is not Amish is "English.") We use animals -- horses to pull our buggies and with which to farm; cows to produce milk and meat; hogs for meat. We rarely make emotional attachments with our animals. Generally, we do not allow dogs and cats into our houses. We have dogs and cats around the farm, but the cats are there to keep the rodent population in check and the dogs are to let us know about any prowlers. I doubt that there has ever been an Amish person who has dressed up a dog in a cute little outfit or calls herself the dog's "Mommie" like I've heard some English people do.

So, for an Amish person, shooting a dog rather than taking him to a veterinarian would be like killing a sick chicken or putting down a horse that broke a leg. I think, however, that shooting 80 dogs just because you might be in trouble with the state for not taking care of them properly is beyond what most Amish would consider acceptable. I certainly don't think it's proper, and I hope those brothers go to jail and stay there for a long time. And the church should excommunicate them, but I doubt that will happen.

I have a great-nephew who raises dogs and sells them. I don't know if he runs what you would call a puppy mill, but he keeps 7 or 8 dogs in pens in the barn, and I have seen them and felt like opening the pen and turning them loose. Even though I would never call myself our Rover's "Mommie," it isn't right to treat a dog cruelly. So, I hope you don't hold it against all of us what those two brothers did in Pennsylvania. But I think our bishops are going to have to get together and talk about whether allowing members of our churches to have puppy mills isn't more sinful than allowing them to have colorful clothing.

(Signed) Aunt Tillie


forsythia said...

Well, at least they don't have dog fights and cock fights.

Patry Francis said...

Well said--and so true. Either we're discriminating against someone else's religion or we're idealizing it.

Meanwhile, thanks for checking in on me when I was in the hospital.

Lydia said...

That reminds me of the Amish man who was yelled at by a random English because he was abusing his horse. The abuse? Making the horse pull his buggy up a not-large hill.

Not only was the Amish guy horrified that someone would think he'd abuse his invaluable horse, but his wife wanted to tell the stupid English how on big hills She had to get out of the buggy and walk so as to not strain the precious horse.

Not that anyone should go around killing and mistreating puppies, of course. But sometimes the English think that just because their cruelty is out of sight (sometimes in distant feedlots and slaughterhouses) it doesn't exist.

Eric said...

Being called English is pretty offensive. If we were the English, the Amish seclusionists living in America would have been squashed out long ago. (Isn't that why the Amish and others left England to begin with?) Us American's on the other hand offer them their freedom to practice their religion, so that we are all more free because of it.

Crockhead said...

Sorry, Eric, but the Amish were never in England. They came over from Switzerland, Germany and France. William Penn, who first invited the Amish to settle in Pennsylvania was English, so I think your history is a little (actually, a lot,) off.