Inhuman remains: Pentagon's policy shifts over pet crematory use
The Pentagon has recently been forced to admit wrongdoing and change its tack. No, it’s not another Abu Ghraib, but it means more to some soldiers and family members of the fallen than another wartime prison scandal.
In this case, soldiers’ remains have been subject to cremation at facilities that handle both human and animal incineration.
Families and soldiers say it’s no way to treat the bodies of our patriots. The Pentagon now agrees. No longer will the war’s casualties be handled by places that service veterinary hospitals along with the local morgue.
With this mini-scandal, the implication is that the Pentagon will cut costs anywhere it can, feeding soldiers to the maw of cut-rate pet cemetery incinerators with impunity.
As a veterinarian that insinuation offends me. Not only does it disparage the fine work my local pet crematorium does, but the rational, animal-adoring me finds nothing untoward in having my family’s remains—human or animal—cremated in the same place.
Still, it’s clear that I’m in the minority on this one. We humans have a thing about our dead—more so when it comes to our military dead. The pageantry of death is ingrained in our culture in ways the clinical me is loath to understand.
Nonetheless, if you add a twenty-one gun salute and a ceremonially folded flag to the mix, the emotional, of-this-culture me sheds copious tears just like everyone else.
Though it’s rationally incomprehensible that any dead body require a fire better suited to its genetics and its social status, I guess I’ll have to give up expecting that humanity will think it acceptable that both humans and beloved pets be cremated side by side. After all, it’s still illegal to inter cremated animal remains with their humans in many parts of the US.
It’s obvious we humans still harbor a host of cultural hang-ups when it comes to death. While I’m gratified that the Pentagon has seen fit to cave to the demands of family members’ sensibilities on this one, I’m still hoping we’ll one day figure out that less separates humans and animals than our culture has contrived.