You’re Having A Laugh – Part Thirty One

The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals

Perhaps it is because I am not a pet owner but I am constantly astonished by how much the British spend on pets. The Pet Food Manufacturing Association claim, and they should know if anyone does, that there are nine million dogs and 8 million cats in the country and Mintel calculated in 2015 that we spend an astonishing £18 billion on our four-footed friends. Even more baffling to me is that, according to Groomarts, British cat and dog owners spend almost £200 a year on clothes for their pets and that 22% of the respondents to their survey admitted to spending up to £20 a month on outfits. And there was me thinking that nature had provided them with a perfectly adequate means of protecting them and keeping them warm, their fur.

It is undeniable, though, that when you are out in the countryside with your family, you may see animals being animals and for those of a sensitive or prudish disposition, being confronted by a priapic bull in flagrante delicto is a bit of a shock and takes some explaining to the children. Wouldn’t it be great if animals were required clothing to hide their private parts and avoid upsetting those of us of a gentle disposition?

That was the idea behind The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA), rather inaptly named as what they were trying to do was to stamp out what they perceived to be the affront to common decency of animals going around as nature intended them. Their mission was to clothe all animals standing over four inches tall and over six inches long. The organisation developed a number of catchy slogans, including “A Nude Horse is a Rude Horse”.

In 1959 articles began to appear in the press about their aims and objectives and they seemed to have struck a chord with the nation. SINA’s President, one G. Clifford Prout, claimed that they already had 50,000 members and were receiving around 400 new applications to join a week. It didn’t cost anything to join, all you had to do was to promise to out neighbours who insisted in parading their animals unclothed.

Prout began to appear on TV, wowing audiences by demonstrating a range of Bermuda shorts for horses, slips for cows and trousers for kangaroos. Stunts were organised including street parades to get the general public used to the idea of animals wearing clothing and bundles of clothes were airdropped into fields so that farmers could slip them on to their herds. Demonstrators even picketed the White House, exhorting the then First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, to clothe her horses.

SINA seemed to have hit the jackpot when Prout was invited to appear on the influential Walter Kronkite television news programme on CBS on August 21, 1962. It proved to be SINA’s equivalent of Icarus flying too close to the son because some of the studio crew recognised Prout as the comedian, Buck Henry. Although the interview went out on air, it soon transpired that SINA was nothing more than a giant hoax. Kronkite was reportedly furious that he had been conned. Time magazine ran an exposé of the hoax in 1963.

The brains behind the hoax was serial hoaxer, Alan Abel, who played the role of the organisation’s executive vice=president, Bruce Spencer. Henry was Abel’s able accomplice, willing to front the operation. Abel claimed to have got the idea after driving past a couple of cows mating and wondered how far such a ludicrous idea, which would appeal to the American moral brigade, would run.

Quite some way, it would appear. Astonishingly, he was able to keep the hoax running for a few more years via a newsletter sent to those who were oblivious to the fall-out from the Kronkite show or the detailed expose in Timemagazine.   

Quite what he would have thought of the current trend to clothe pets is anybody’s guess but I’m sure he would have had a chuckle.

If you enjoyed this, try Fifty Scams and Hoaxes by Martin Fone

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/business/fifty-scams-and-hoaxes/

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