You’d be forgiven if you asked, “Who is Ushna Shah?”
I had no idea who she was, either. But I did a bit of research on her background after I skimmed through an interview with her that was titled, “‘Humans first’ ideology of speciesism is as repugnant as racism, sexism and xenophobia.”
My immediate question was: Wait — humans aren’t first anymore? If not, then who’s ahead of us? Other primates?
Please. Only in sci-fi stories are apes superior to people, and even in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, they sucked at the fundamentals required of a creature at the top of the food chain: walking, talking, riding bareback on horses and firing a machine gun into a crowd of enemies.
We’ll dissect the “repugnance” some people associate with the humans-first ideology in a moment, but for the record, Ushna Shah is a Canadian actress born to Pakistani parents. She started her career in live theater in Toronto, then moved to Pakistan, where she subsequently starred in several films that were apparently big hits in that part of the world.
Now, I try to be as culturally sensitive as the next guy, but I can’t imagine her movies would have much crossover appeal among Americans. I mean, check out the poster (see photo) touting her starring role in something called “Punjab Nahi Jaungi” — not sure what animal that guy is riding, but even he’s a better equestrian that the hominids in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”
Along with her acting chops, Shah’s profile piece in The Daily Times (Asian edition) credited her for being a “fiery and very passionate [advocate] for the welfare, protection and well-being of animals,” and she demonstrated that mindset in her answer to the very first question in the interview:
Q. “Do you prefer dogs to people?
Shah: “Yes, I do.”
Shah: “They love you immensely, unreservedly and unconditionally. It is that simple.”
Hey, I love dogs, too — even more than apes — but not more than my wife and family. If unconditional love is what you want, adopt an infant. At least when they’re little, they love you just as unreservedly as any animal could, and teaching a toddler to sit, roll over and beg for food is a lot more entertaining than pursuing the same activities with a puppy.
Okay, potty training’s another story, but I still contend that animals aren’t capable of loving somebody more than another person could.
Mutts Versus Mates
For further proof of her misplaced priorities, here’s how Shah continued with her canine valentine:
“Dogs are loyal, sincere and affectionate. They are always available, both emotionally and physically, for their human companions. They are smart. They are great company and give back much more love than they receive. They have great emotional intelligence and understand humans very well. Most importantly, they know how to love, truly and deeply. So of course, they make great friends.”
Okay, over the years I’ve owned and been around numerous dogs, not only pet shelter mutts but also a couple purebred Dobermans, an English foxhound and one humongous Irish wolfhound, a dog that was unquestionably “great company,” as Shah opined, but was also about the dumbest thing on four legs I’ve ever encountered.
Emotional intelligence? He had an attention span of about 1.2 seconds, and no matter how much effort was expended in training, all it took was the flash of a squirrel scampering up a tree, and he’d be distracted for the next half hour — not to mention that it usually took about a dozen attempts before he’d figure out that the bowl you were holding under his nose contained the food over which he was seriously salivating.
As for the idea that dogs “know how to love, truly and deeply,” methinks it’s Ms. Shah who loves her dogs truly and deeply, not the other way around.
I’m sorry, but compared with the best dog alive, the worst girlfriend I ever had was way more fun, way more intelligent and way more capable of friendship — not necessarily with me, but hey, we’re talking potential here, not track record.
In the end, people who value animals over their fellow Homo sapiens are the biggest supporters of the misguided drive to establish legal standing for so-called sentient beings, and as a result, they embrace the belief that animals are entitled to a “lifestyle” equivalent to enlightened veggie types, who can be sighted in their natural habitat roaming the aisles of a Whole Foods store.
I won’t be renting any of Ushna Shah’s movies anytime soon, and I’m sure as heck not buying her philosophy that animals are more intelligent and “emotionally available” than people.
That’s about as plausible as a horde of apes on horses riding into San Francisco to gun down the last remaining humans.
Of course, for some animal activists, that would constitute a happy ending.
Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.