In a fervor to foretell the fate of the football teams in the European Championship matches, many are turning to animals to “prophesy” who will win. Using animals as oracles goes back to ancient times: The ancient Greeks and Romans sacrificed animals including cattle and sheep and “read” their intestines to determine what to do and what the gods’ will might be; they also observed the behavior of birds to divine the future.
An octopus named Paul is the more recent inspiration for Germans turning pets into oracles. Paul the Octopus correctly predicted the outcome of all eight of Germany’s 2010 World Cup matches, a chance of one in 256 says Der Spiegel.
Paul died of old age in 2010 but his fame has “spawned innumerable copycat attempts to find an animal with similar forecasting abilities.” Der Spiegel is tracking 10 animals, four of whom are said to have perfect records: Nelly the elephant, Emma the pig, Ferret and Mörmel the otter duo and Xaver the bulldog. Other animals include the ferrets Speedy and Snow White, Funtik the pig (from the Ukraine), anoctopus in Spain (name not given by Der Spiegel), Citta the elephant (from Poland).
Yvonne, the cow who ran away for 98 days to escape the slaughterhouse, has also been tested for her prophetic powers but has so far made incorrect guesses three times.
Even countries that are not competing in Euro 2012 have been turning animals into oracles: Singapore has a fish, Big Huat and Thailand a seal, Tik.
But as Marius Tünte, the spokesperson at Germany’s Tierschutzbund or Animal Protection Agency, observes, the animal oracle craze has gone a bit too far and is even “tasteless.” Forcing aimals into this role is equivalent to making elephants perform in the circus, Tünte says:
“We as a society should be careful not make entertainment at the cost of our animals.”
The newspaper Die Welt says that some dogs who had made incorrect predictions have been left at roadside rest stops and,gruesomely, a piglet named Richard ended up in “portions in a butcher shop” after offering a “false oracle.” A parrot whose predictions were correct was found offered for sale on Ebay and was no longer alive but, it seems, stuffed.
Despite these reports, many of the animals are in no way being harmed. But one animal oracle is simply repugnant, the German radio station bigFM’s python Ado, which is being given a choice of two rats. Tünte’s agency says on its Facebook page that this is a case of “unnecessary suffering is being inflicted purely for the sake of enjoyment.” As Tünte told the BBC, “These days, everybody who has an animal seems to put it in front of a camera.” by Kristina Chew