Roar Staff Writer Charley Dennis argues that dog owners’ conflation of new muzzle laws with autocracy masks the growing misuse of the terminology of victimhood.
Midday last Saturday, Trafalgar Square heard the roars of protest as hundreds of passionate dog owners announced their quarrels with Rishi Sunak’s decision to ban the controversial breed the ‘XL Bully’.
The proposed amendment to the Dangerous Dog Act (1991) comes after another fatal incident where two XL bullies attacked Ian Price, 52, in Staffordshire. This most recent addition to the list of 20 domestic deaths attributed to this breed since 2021 has finally caught the attention of the Government, leading to this controversial move.
Sunak told the public that the breed is to be banned by the end of the year, alongside the introduction of new rules for other domesticated animals. Although the Government has ruled out the sequestration of pets, people still took it upon themselves to defend this breed which is believed to be alarmingly inbred; indeed, the genetic makeup of this specific breed has played a central role in the debate, with many believing it to be predisposed to these violent attacks.
The subsequent protest was filled with placards and chants demonising Rishi Sunak, in a style which presents a larger picture of a victimhood in response to what they’d consider government oppression. The words ‘stop bullying our bullies’ were plastered throughout the crowd, alongside soft-hearted images of the pets. If one was not aware of these animal’s genetic compulsions, it would be easy to understand their consternation at having to muzzle their dogs.
This is taken to its most absurd extremes with an image of an XL in golden armour, portrayed as some sort of martyred Catholic Saint, emblematic of protestors’ sense of victimhood and their self-identification as champions of the persecuted. Images of Rishi Sunak’s face photoshopped over Hitler saluting embeds this idea of victimhood as a response to a publicly understood archetype of evil – one in which these dogs are hailed as innocent victims of tyranny.
The problem is that these animals are not just undoubtedly a physical threat to the British public, but also a symptom of changes in our nation’s values. The harm these animals are capable of is evident. But owners stolidly hold on, recycling slogans like ‘Blame The Owner Not The Breed’. Blaming the owners doesn’t substantially address the issue of dangerous dogs: you should be highly apprehensive about anybody who would adopt an animal predisposed to mauling children.
The popularity of these dogs speaks to larger cultural currents as people are increasingly choosing pets which have the potential to protect them – something which mirrors American cultural norms where a loaded weapon is an acceptable everyday accessory. American gun rights discourse seems to reek of a similar victim complex, with any suggestion of imposing limitations on an individual’s ability to buy an AK-47 rebutted as an attack on civil liberties.
This ridiculous, albeit impressive, subversion of what freedom and tyranny really mean is something which seems to be growing at an alarming rate – now it seems to have infected British values. Being termed a ‘victim’ was once a serious matter; it helped people engage with survivors of genuine atrocities and rationalized the need for social change in the name of preventing the recrudescence of similar episodes. However, in 2023, everybody can make their claim to victimhood: You had to social distance in 2020? Victim. You can’t say racial slurs anymore? Victim. You must drive 20mph in residential areas? You’re a victim. And you can’t even adopt a violently inbred dangerous animal? You’re most definitely a victim.
These issues seem inconsequential in comparison to the grand scheme of high-politics, but they’ve nonetheless come to dominate political and social discourse. As the NHS crumbles, LGBT issues heighten and the Russia-Ukraine war wages on, people travelled to Trafalgar Square to declare that muzzling their dog is no different from the atrocities of the Third Reich. That’s absurd. Wherever you stand on the issue of dangerous dogs, everybody should be aware of the growing weaponization of victimhood.