People are not sheep
Cops are not pigs
Generals are not hawks
They are all humans
The English language contains hundreds of idioms that mention animals: ants in your pants, bull in a china shop, clam up, fish out of water, free as a bird, the lion’s den, like a moth to a flame, playing possum, quick as a bunny, squirrel away, stir up the hornet nest, strong as an ox, and many many more.
These examples are innocuous, but many evocations of animals are not, and that’s my focus here.
Talking politics often includes unfavorable characterizations of one’s adversaries and using animals to insult humans is very common in this context, both online and IRL. But this is neither fair nor accurate, and I often find myself tacking on a comment to that effect, such as: “Describing Republicans as rats is insulting to rats” or “Calling cops pigs slanders pigs.”
Rats are communal creatures who help take care of each other. Pigs are highly intelligent, with some scientists ranking them fourth smartest in the world, close behind dolphins and apes, and before cats and dogs. They are also clean and highly social. Neither one acts with the malevolent intent of either politicians or policemen. Instead of dragging these animals into the discussion, people should cut to the chase and say: corrupt, cruel, dirty-dealing, forceful, greedy, maniacal, rapacious, two-faced, vicious and unethical.