Olli Toivanen's probabilities of ironic speeling

Smoking animals — a few thoughts

A thought: Since I'm pretty sure I've heard of a smoking chimp somewhere, I wonder: How many animals could you teach to smoke?

Say you have many enough cigarettes, some constant source of ignition, lots of patience (and maybe guidance), and an animal.

Chimps, sure. Probably gorillas and baboons too; there isn't so very much difference between them and certain city-dwellers I know, and most of that is to the advantage of the naked ones.

Horses? I reckon that'd be physically possible, with those scary horse lips, but a bit awkward. And naturally I have no idea (not being a smoker myself) whether the feeling and taste of smoke, and the addictive and calming effects, are something a slightly coerced animal would appreciate. (Not being a huge fan of the “It's unnatural!” argument, I don't see that as worse than the most probably eminently unnatural stuff horses are fed, or any less alien than how vets interfere vith der Forces of der Natzural Selektion for the Stronkest of der Stronk; and modern horses are unnatural products of human selection anyway.)

Then again, people can teach animals to do many things: dogs fetch, and cows consent to having their udders pulled. (Er, I foresee I shall once again get uncomfortable google hits because of those last two words. Oh, woe is me.) But those activities, unlike smoking, are so close to seemingly normal things those animals do: dogs run down small moving things because they are carnivores, and even without eating them appreciate the chase because that's a good and useful thing, evolutionarily speaking, to appreciate, much like the thoughtless and amoral appreciation of members of the opposite sex of great health and reproductive age among us humans; and the survival of the cow species is udderly (sorry) dependent on providing milk on command, which is then quickly “perverted” by a milkmaid or a milking machine. (Oh, I dread the google hits.)

And every animal that consents to petting does so (or so I wildly and without any formal knowledge on the matter speculate) because it “knows” grooming, mating rituals, and general paternal and maternal fussing. A petted cat that purrs even if it isn't actually cleaned or courted is probably (and I appreciate I am about to say something slightly icky) misfiring the way a human does enjoying the feel of a thing (sex) without the reason why that good feeling is in us (reproduction). That's humanity: perverting evolution since forever.

Weird, though. I study mathematics, and what I end up writing about? Poorly informed biological speculation, which doesn't even manage to stick to its chosen subject of “smoking animals”. Oh well.

Now, what about birds? There is something enchantingly awful in the thought of a raven having a puff. (Maybe because “a raven having a puff” sounds like it should mean something anatomically awful to some probably British subset of slang-users. “Cor 'ey, what's he there doing, bent over her like a raven having a puff? Bloody disgusting, I say!”)

While I can easily imagine a dog taught to smoke, I can't do the same with a cat; but somehow there's no trouble in imagining the frosty stare of a cat that does not approve of your expression, a cat that tried to go cold turkey but couldn't, and is instead covered with shaved patches where nicotine plasters used to be. (Which gives rise to this uncomfortable though: “There are cats shaved like poodles, but surely that's not the final limit of human ingenuity in this matter.” But please, if you go searching for examples, don't start with the search string “funny shaved pussy”.)

Now, a string of words.

Sheep. Cigarette. Ash. Dry wool. Conflagration.

Just a thought. (If cruelty to animals isn't fun to you, replace “Dry wool” with “Badly insulated tractor gas tank” — er, sorry. I thought it could become funny if material mayhem and a hint of an anti-agrarian sentiment was added to it.)

Strange how quite any human activity seems fun if you imagine an animal doing it. Even those human activities that are quite animal-like. (An adjunct thought that often comes to me watching nature documentaries: “By Tsathoggua, they wouldn't show that if they were humans doing it!” — the follow-up to that being “How come a pair of dogs shagging is hysterical Hollywood teen comedy gold, but humans doing that is an arcane, evil-corruptive pornographic thing that Will Not Be Shown?”)

But — smoking? I suppose an animal would learn, if it found the practice enjoyable, got hooked, or was rewarded for it.

And, to end this in a philosophical note carefully crafted to appear insightful and deep, since we humans are animals too, isn't that why we smoke, too?