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Tag: pigs

Pet Rescue Saga: How I single-handedly saved hundreds of pets from being crushed

petrescuesaga

I rescued dozens, possibly hundreds, of pets from certain death the other night.

But before you call me a hero, or saint, you should know I only did it on Facebook, and only in a video game.

Pet Rescue Saga is the popular new puzzle game, downloaded more than 150 million times and playable on Facebook and through apps. It’s free, at first,  but then, like a drug dealer who has handed out samples to get new clients hooked, it starts charging you to play more, or play more effectively, or to reach greater highs.

The game comes from King.com, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, which is similar and reportedly equally addictive.

When invitations to play Pet Rescue Saga first started showing up on my Facebook page, I wrongly assumed — given most of my Facebook friends are die-hard, do-gooding animal lovers — that it was a game that somehow was related to, or benefited, animal welfare causes.

It’s not, and it doesn’t.

There might be some unintentional similarities to the real world of animal rescue, such as walls being put up in front of you, and things piling up faster than you can handle them. But “Pet Rescue Saga” isn’t about rescuing pets in the animal welfare sense of the word. It’s mainly about busting blocks, and then more blocks, and then more blocks, by clicking on them to ensure that the “adorable” little pets atop them don’t get squished.

Given video games have a reputation for catering to our basest instincts — chopping off heads, running people over in cars and the like –  I had hopes, especially when Facebook friends kept inviting me to play, that this one might actually be about a noble pursuit, or might even be educational.

No such luck. What it teaches us about pet rescue is that we can save animals by matching two or more blocks of the same color.

Still, I ended up spending an hour playing it on Facebook, which annoyingly notified me to “share” every time I passed some friend’s record, before it got to the point where further play would require an investment of money. (That — having to fork up some money — generally prevents and/or cures any addictions to which I might fall victim.)

There are hundreds of levels of the game, and the higher you go (or the more you spend) the more tools you get to “save pets” – like sizzling rockets, hammers and exploding bombs.

In playing it, one becomes so focused on the blocks that he forgets about the animals. The endangered animals really seem a well-contrived afterthought, as if the gamemakers thought putting pets in need of rescue atop the stacks of blocks — as opposed to pots of gold or damsels in distress – might give it some relevance, or, pet rescue being a popular cause, add to its popularity.

“Wait! Don’t forget about the animals! ” says a review of the game on gamezebo.com. “Some levels of Pet Rescue Saga have dogs, pigs, and pigeons trapped on stacks of blocks, or wedged in columns. When you successfully clear away blocks, said animals drop safely to the ground. However, since many levels of Pet Rescue Saga scroll vertically, the animals on tall columns are in constant danger of getting squished on the top of the screen. Nothing ruins your day like the anguished squeal of a piglet.”

Squishing aside, it’s nice to see a game that’s seemingly about rescuing and saving, as opposed to killing and maiming.

It would be much nicer to see a game that was really about rescuing and saving animals, or that really taught compassion, or at least tried to.

I’m not necessarily saying the makers and marketers of the game are trying to capitalize on tender-hearted pet lovers, or that they mislead people to think the game might have some legitimate connection to the actual world of animal rescue.

But, after playing the game, I did start receiving emails from the gamemaker — far too many emails — with subject lines like: “Pets in danger. Help them now!” Clicking on the link in the email took me directly to the game’s Facebook app.

I don’t keep up much anymore with the latest developments in video games. So I don’t know if phony altruism is the latest video game trend: Bust up the blocks and find a cure for cancer. Bust up the blocks to feed the starving children.

Maybe there are some truly altruistic video games out there. The Game Show Network came close to that last month when it introduced Pet Pals Slots, a limited-edition game on Facebook. It earmarked a portion of money made from gameplay in November — up to $30,000 — to go to Best Friends Animal Society, providing food, medical care and shelter for animals at the organization’s Utah sanctuary. In other words, while playing a mostly mindless game, those who played Pet Pals Slots, at least in a way, were saving pets.

Video games, with exceptions, are rarely educational, and I don’t really expect them to serve as our moral compass. (More often they seem aimed at sending that compass haywire.)

And of course they’re not obligated to share the wealth they make with any deserving causes they borrow their themes from.

But how cool would it be to see — in addition to less squishing — more of that?

Making the case for eating our dogs

eatinganimals_200Another book has come out that makes the case for eating our dogs.

On the heels of “Time to Eat the Dog,” by New Zealand professors Brenda and Robert Vale, who admit their title is mostly a shock tactic and who don’t actually propose consuming our pets, comes Jonathan Safran Foer with “Eating Animals,” who says eating our dogs would be no more barbaric than our consumption of pigs, cattle, chickens, etc.

For Foer, interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday, the idea of consuming dogs makes even more sense, on some levels, than eating animals raised to be food.

“For the ecologically-minded,” he writes, “it’s time to admit that dog is realistic food for realistic environmentalists.” That last part sounds almost like an advertising slogan, doesn’t it?

Foer’s book was also excerpted in the Wall Street Journal last week, so it’s probably OK if we cut off and chew on a little piece of it here:

Read more »

Time to eat the authors?

time-to-eat-the-dogNew Zealand professors Brenda and Robert Vale say the title of their book was partly tongue-in-cheek, partly shock tactic.

“Time to Eat the Dog?: A Real Guide to Sustainable Living” — and we’re thankful they at least used a question mark — doesn’t actually propose pet owners eat their dogs and cats, but it does suggest switching to pets like chickens and rabbits, which then can be eaten.

Of course, if their fate is to be eaten, they wouldn’t be pets. They’d be livestock. But the Vales, both New Zealand professors of architecture and non-dogs owners (as maybe you’d guess), don’t seem to see the distinction.

By eating our pets, the Vales say, we’d reduce their carbon footprint.

And dogs and cats, granted, make some pretty big ones — according to the Vales, the amount of land and energy it takes to make one dog’s food for a year makes for twice the carbon footprint of a Toyota Land Cruiser driven 6,213 miles a year.

A cat’s carbon footprint, meanwhile, is  “slightly less than a Volkswagen Golf.

New Scientist magazine, in an editorial, stopped short of backing the authors’ suggestion – that we should recycle our pets by eating them or turning them into pet food at the end of their lives – but it did call for reducing the impact of pets on the environment, and for the pet food industry to be more environmentally responsible.

“In a world of scarce resources, can we justify keeping pets that consume more than some people?” the editorial asks. “… Giving up our pets in the name of sustainability may seem like a sacrifice too far, but if we are going to continue to keep animals purely for our enjoyment then we have to face uncomfortable choices.

“At the moment, pet-food manufacturers thrive by selling us the idea that only the best will do for our beloved animals, but once owners become more aware, what they demand from the industry is likely to change,” the editorial notes. “The first manufacturer to offer a green, eco-friendly pet food could be onto a winner. Sustainable lifestyles require sacrifices, and even cats and dogs can be made to do their bit.”

Homeward bound: Head ‘em up, move ‘em out

My amazing eight days in Seoul — which I’ll tell you a thing or two about in the days ahead – are over, and I’m almost home.

One more flight to go, from San Francisco to Baltimore, and that’s not for another few hours, giving me time to sit in the airport and reflect on things such as why we humans transport ourselves much like we transport our livestock.

Why is it those in charge of moving us non-grade A/non-first-class humans from one place to another feel we must be cramped and sweaty, packed in like these pick-up truck pigs I snapped a picture of in Yongin, about 40 miles south of Seoul.

Sure, we humans get beverage service, and perhaps headsets to listen to music, and reclining seats, but other than that — and the fact that we’re not slaughtered when we reach our destination — the experiences have some parallels. And if we were to look at subways, there’d be even more.

Subways are cheap and fast and, as crowded as those in Seoul could get, I never found myself resentful about feeling like part of the herd. With airline travel, because of the hefty cost and all the extra hassles, I’m more likely to oink about it.

I wonder if it might send a message if we all took to mooing and squealing as we trudged through the line on our way through the airport security chute. Or should we just be thankful that they don’t use cattle prods  to speed us along?

Granted, the average economy airline seat offers more room than these pigs get — but not much more, especially if the passenger in front of you has his seat fully reclined.

Fortunately, I slept through most of my last 10 airplane-seat hours — and I hope to do the same for most of the upcoming six. It’s not exactly quality sleep, what with some stranger’s elbow in your side, but it makes the time go by, and allows you to recover from the treatment you’ve just received from the security wranglers.

I think that’s why, even when one sleeps for the entire journey, one is still exhausted upon arriving home — the stress and cramped conditions of air travel. Still, I’m grateful for this much:

When I get to my final destination I might be toast. But at least I won’t be bacon.

Of pigs and pooches: Pigtown gets its party on

It’s hard to top something like the “Running of the Pigs,” but the Pigtown Pooch Pageant, also scheduled as part of this weekend’s Annual Pigtown Festival, will give it a shot.

Dogs will be exhibiting their talents and wardrobes Saturday, and judges will be awarding prizes to the three that make the biggest impressions.

The festival — on the 700 and 800 blocks of Washington Boulevard in Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood – also features food, drinks, music, community booths and children’s activities. It starts at 11 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m.

If you plan to enter your dog in the pageant, you need to register at the festival a half hour before the event.

The pooch pageant is sponsored by Doggie Style, 1130 Light Street, in Federal Hill.