After recording her album The Tigers Have Spoken, Neko Case sat down with peta2. Of course, we couldn’t let a name like that go by without looking into it. But, after sitting down with her, we saw it was deeper than we had even imagined.
What inspired the song “The Tigers Have Spoken”?
There is a Grace Braun song called “Tiger, Tiger” that The Sadies cover. It made me realize how much I think about tigers. I remembered reading about some rich guys paying huge sums of money to shoot a tiger at some animal compound. The tiger was old and helpless on a chain. Some creep wanted to play “the great white hunter.” … I always wonder how your average citizen can get a hold of an exotic animal in the first place. I can honestly say I often ponder the idea that it might be more humane to let an animal become extinct in its natural habitat than make them live in tiny concrete cages in the name of “saving the species.” … Don’t get me wrong—that’s the last thing I want to happen, and I don’t think it will (thank God there are so many who dedicate their lives to stopping it), but if the only tigers that were left had to jump through hoops and wear hats, then let them go.
In the song, you sing, “They shot the tiger on his chain/In a field behind the cages/He walked in circles ’til he was crazy/And he lived that way forever.” That’s a really powerful image. What does it mean to you?
I … remember seeing big cats at the zoo when I was little—they seemed mentally ill. It did not feel “educational,” just creepy. Just like whales at Sea World, you know?
How do you feel about trainers who beat and abuse animals to force them to perform tricks for circuses? Would you ever attend a circus?
Those people should face the consequences. I am not expert on the broad spectrum of animal protection laws, but they always seem really lax to me. People who abuse animals are very likely to have the same tendencies toward people. It should not be so easily dismissed. I haven’t been to a circus since I was really small, and I seem to remember that there were only human performers. … Nothing is more depressing than a bear wearing a tight muzzle and made to “dance” around.
What issue involving animals is dearest to your heart?
On a national scale, the treatment and transport of livestock is something else that really bugs me. Just yesterday, I was driving through rural Kansas and I stopped for gas. The temperature was well below freezing, and there was a nasty wind. There was a truck full of pigs next to me. They were shrieking as though someone were murdering them. I think they were mad from the cold. A couple of them were tearing each other apart. It was horrifying. I feel really depressed about it. Factory farming has not only brought us new diseases and dangerous meat but it has made us lose appreciation for the fact that what we are eating was once a living thing. People are very unaware that these animals did not come from pastoral farms but from muddy, disease-ridden, cram-packed stockyards. They are transported like garbage.
On a personal level, I care very much about racing greyhounds because I adopted one myself. I’ve never had a more loving or patient dog. I just want everyone to know how great they are. When friends are looking to get a dog (or instead of having a baby, ha-ha!), I always badger them about adopting one, which makes me sound like a crazy dog lady, but that’s OK—I’ve convinced a couple of people who are very happy they did.
Can you share a fond memory that you have of a companion animal or an animal you felt close to?
I’m just so grateful that I have spent my life surrounded by animals. They show up in my songs all the time. I feel so sad when people tell me they’ve never had a pet or that they are afraid of dogs or whatever. I’m still very touched and amazed that my dog is ecstatic every time I come home—that never gets old. My life is much better for it. I think his is, too.
PETA gets dozens of complaints a week regarding people who chain their dogs in the backyard with no shelter or loving attention. What would you want to say to someone who treats animals so poorly?
They should never be allowed to keep or care for an animal again. I don’t know if that’s enforceable, but I wish it was.
What can kids today do to help improve the lives of animals?
Don’t let other kids get away with torturing animals. I guess it’s more of an issue of what the parents’ teachings and examples are. My family gave great amounts of loving respect and attention to our animals. I know that’s where I learned to love them so much.