The peacock on the plane

The boom in airline passengers insisting they must fly with 'emotional support' animals tells us something

A very supportive peacock.
(Image credit: iStockphoto)

This is the editor’s letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.

As you squeeze into a downsized airline coach seat that would be snug for a 9-year-old, you find a peacock in the next chair, warily eyeing you. Or a diapered duck. Or a pig (sans diaper). Or a large, growling dog. Absurd, I know, but entirely possible: Last year, Delta alone flew 250,000 service and "emotional support" animals brought by passengers who insisted they needed cats, turkeys, rodents, untrained dogs, and even a peacock to keep them calm at 30,000 feet. (The peacock, thankfully, was rejected.) Some of these animals have pooped in seats and aisles; others have bitten passengers and other support animals. If there's a single phenomenon that captures the spirit of this age, it's this one. As David Leonhardt put it in The New York Times this week, the support animal is one more piece of proof we live in a culture that "fetishizes individual preference and expression over communal well-being."

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