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I have read this question on Travel.SE, and I am kinda confused about the use of the word animals in that question:

These are entirely different classes of travel. Portugal+Spain is an easy trip within the usual Western world, close to home and without any significant apparent dangers other than the usual pickpockets and the expensive Euro zone. You can easily get home if needed (regular flights from Madrid and Barcelona directly to TLV, connections through all around Europe from everywhere else).

Russia, Cuba and China are different kinds of animals.

Russia is an unstable place, other than in......etc

Was it meant to be offensive or not? if not what did he mean?

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I can only say, in the [Furry fandom][1] it almost never is. [1]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furry_fandom –  SF. Nov 27 '12 at 9:55
    
Great question, but 'always' offensive' is too presumptuous. Obviously no one is offended when referring to animals in the wild. –  Mitch Nov 27 '12 at 13:47

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

No, not at all. In fact, the phrase "a whole different animal" can be used idiomatically to mean "another category altogether."

Here's an example where an airline is using the phrase to promote itself in a positive light:

Let's face it. Air travel is a pretty straightforward business. You need to go someplace; we'll take you there on one of our planes.

But that's not what we're all about. Our tagline "A whole different animal" means we approach our business with four key principles in mind. These are the four legs that we stand on. They're who we are. "A whole different animal" represents our promise to you. Simply put, our goal is to do the little things that make a big difference to you. We're affordable; we're flexible; we're accommodating; we're comfortable.

In the example you cite, the writer is simply saying that traveling to Russia, Cuba, and China would be very different for the tourist than travel to those other destinations. For the adventuresome traveler, this might be considered a plus. For those who want easy, hassle-free travel, however, it might be best to avoid these destinations.

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One definition of animal is: "Facetious a person or thing (esp in the phrase no such animal)." This phrase, "a different kind of animal," has been around a long time. I found the phrase used in this manner with regard to a musical program in an 1870s publication. –  JLG Jun 10 '12 at 3:46
    
I've heard the term "beast" used in the same way as "animal" in this discussion. –  JAM Jun 10 '12 at 7:19
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@JAM: Or sometimes "ball game", too. –  J.R. Jun 10 '12 at 8:41

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