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Archive for April, 2017

It is an unfortunate fact that stories about animals in Asia often turn out to be distressing tales of cruelty and indifference, so the news that Taiwan is outlawing the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat is truly heartening.

The stray dog hanged by Taiwanese marines

A number of recent incidents in the country had raised the issue of animal cruelty and one in particular outraged the public. A few Taiwanese marines had caught a stray dog on their base, beaten it with sticks and then hanged the unfortunate beast over a wall, finally throwing the lifeless body into the sea. These brave individuals made the mistake of filming the incident which somehow found its way onto the internet. Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, is known for her concern for animal welfare and vowed to do more to protect animals when she first entered office. Now a bill has been passed to end the sordid and obscene practice of selling and killing dogs and cats for food in Taiwan.

Other Asian countries too are beginning to alter their attitudes towards dogs, although in certain cases only the sale of dog and cat meat is prohibited, rather than its consumption. Part of the problem in some countries, such as South Korea where the farming of dogs for meat is prevalent, is that while there are laws supposedly protecting animals, they are rarely enforced. Adding to this difficulty is the extent to which those laws apparently cover only “livestock”… and dogs are not regarded as livestock, so are raised and slaughtered as a cheap form of food.

Occasionally, when this issue is raised, I hear a few people say that cattle, sheep and poultry are consumed in this country, so we should not condemn people with different traditions and eating habits. That argument could not be more erroneous.

Firstly, what we now know about dogs and indeed what scientists are still discovering about them, is remarkable. The relationship with humans is unique, perhaps going back as far as 100,000 years and, as a consequence of that long-term contact, dogs’ brains are adapting to a point whereby they can anticipate the wishes of their human owners. This really does make them something special.

Dogs await their fate in the evil dog meat trade.

Secondly, the conditions in which dogs and cats are kept, the inhumane manner in which they are transported (usually crammed into cages on top of each other), and slaughtered by multiple blows to the head and a cut to the throat , often in full view of others awaiting the same fate, is something no animal should suffer.

Next year, South Korea hosts the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and apparently officials there understand the sensitivity about dog meat and are emulating the Chinese.  In 2008, the BBC reported that during the Beijing Olympics dog meat had been taken off the menus of local restaurants as it might offend visitors, yet the reporter spoke glibly about how she had eaten puppy meat and casually described its taste. I well remember that news report and how nothing of the way dogs are treated was mentioned by that heartless BBC reporter. My disgust and anger at the time led to a BBC Radio 4 interview on why this this trade must stop.

Thirdly, the dogs involved in this obscene trade are not all from breeding farms; many will be stolen pets. The thought that a once loved animal could end its life in such a way is sickening.

Finally, the view that all cultures and customs must be respected, as if they are all equal, is ludicrous and dangerous. Some practices, such as FGM, the gender inequalities in so-called Sharia law, the ‘exorcism’ of children supposedly cursed by demons, ‘honour’ killings and marrying off a 13 year- old girl to a man four times her age can all be defined as another ‘culture’ but can never be described as civilised, let alone acceptable. In my view, the dog meat trade falls into this same category.

Yet in saying this, there will be some who may think that this is no more than just another animal story. And on the other side, there will be animal rights supporters, those who think they are the only ones who speak for animals, unable to understand that there are people who eat meat, use animal products, who hunt, shoot or fish and are as equally strong in their condemnation of the dog meat trade. This was obvious from the numerous supportive messages from hunting/shooting folk when the Taiwanese ban was first announced. It shouldn’t be surprising, as dogs form a crucial component in many field sports and hark back thousands of years to when man and dog first found each other mutually beneficial.

The San people and their dogs out hunting

Just consider this for a moment. The San people have inhabited the countries of Southern Africa for 20,000 years, living as hunter/gatherers. Their history includes poverty, oppression, exclusion and enslavement, yet despite such hardship they still cherish the relationship they have with dogs. Of course, many people use dogs as a hunting accessory, but as far as the San are concerned this is a real partnership, seeing them as guardians too; in effect dogs are the eyes and ears of their community. “We love our dogs” they proudly say. Put simply, the San understand dogs.

So why, given that hardship, and what we would regards as the primitive nature of the lifestyle of the San, can they find the dog so worthy of genuine love and care, while a technically advanced country like South Korea still permits the cruel and uncivilised abuse of man’s best friend, as if devoid of any sense of compassion?

The San people: “We love our dogs”

In an internet world, it is very easy to mount campaigns, gathering large numbers of people to support or oppose a variety of issues. Sometimes those involved in such campaigns can do so because all that is required is the touch of a computer button or because they are unaffected by the outcomes or are just ignorant of the consequences.

But some human actions cross a line of acceptability that justify widespread total condemnation. The dog meat trade crosses that line.

For more information see:
http://koreandogs.org/

 

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