Labyrinth Map
Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal News  

Today's news that effects tomorrow's world shouldn't be forgotten ...

Top LGVN Stories

Pre 2001 archives
About This News Site
Breaking headlines from other news sites around the world
General World News
European Vegetarian and Animal News Agency Headlines
General Animal News
Around Looking-Glass & VeggieGlobal
Global Healing Campaigns
New Vegetarian?
Good-Cause Support
The Animal "Highway Code"
Vegetarian Nutrition
Charities Directories
How To Build A Wildlife Garden
VeggieGlobal Main Site Entrance
Looking-Glass Main Site Entrance
Veggie / Animal / Environmental Groups Directory
Global Idealisms? ... The GGL
Wildlife Care
VeggieGlobal Kids


Published March 2004 - Last updated October 2008
Pride, Poison and Prejudice around the Parthenon.

Part 3 - Backgrounds of Greece and other countries cited as cruel to animals

(For Part 1 of this 3 part report ...)

John O'Donnell takes a pragmatic journey around Greece and other countries cited for animal cruelty to examine how they are viewed through the international media and from inside their own borders. Also, how history and "cultural logic" determine the different relationships that nations of opposites have towards their animals.

Xenophobia for Dummies

The UK, America and parts of Western Europe often provide accounts on countries traditionally portrayed as uncompassionate towards animals, both through the media and more recently through the web. But do such negative preconceptions towards proud nations cause cultural backfire and resentment from inside the accused country? If so "cause and effect" is something to consider - not only in surveying a society by its mistreatment of animals but understanding how such treatment is inherently imprinted into the roots of its culture.
Ghandi once said, "You can see the grandeur and the moral progress of a nation by the way it treats its animals''. But cultural imprinting is just one view that needs to be addressed more carefully when trying to improve states of welfare in foreign places.
In fact, animal welfare parallels many aspects of how different societies can evolve a debased view of each other - through lack of patience and understanding.
What historically carves such different cultural paths around the world is a complex and delicate issue - and how the global community thinks it should alter these paths can cause a great deal of contention. Even if the purpose to instigate change is for the good of animals and people, many countries simply don't want to feel patronised by the directives of the outside world. Such blatant interference can lead to a backfire from the old school elements of societies who cherish even their more distasteful traditions. And so it may still take many generations of education to turn the world into a unified way of compassionate thinking.
In the meantime, xenophobia and pride are emotions that barely lie beneath the surface of most nations throughout the world. Political diplomacy might well shield such feelings to a point, but it's no more than a psychological concealment of intolerance, mistrust and arrogance - and a very fragile one too.
Governments are very good at dressing up xenophobia under the banner of "international relations" and some can play the diplomatic hand very confidently. Others however may express intolerance openly and passionately.
For example, recent events between strident American led forces and religiously complex Islamic countries show how national pride and misunderstood cultural approaches can cause nations to become totally dismissive of common-sense solutions. Failure to absolve social differences can cloud any constructive dialogue between countries, and this in turn affects the confidence of both controlling and domestic authorities and squabbling citizens. Deception and irrational finger-pointing can take over, and a situation deteriorates worse than before.

Humanitarian injustice is a subject that tends to be contained within a political arena more than animal welfare issues. It's seen as a matter of diplomatic based argument and so the general public feels less emotionally attached to the issue when we are informed by the media about war and atrocities in far away places. After all, it's a subject dealing with turmoil between the same species (humans), and so we instinctively gauge our emotions on how it affects our personal space between one human and another. In fact, this is where it's easy to detect an element of jingoism bubbling underneath a veil of polite sympathy - and that's why prejudice in every society - and from one culture to another - is never far away.

So how does animal welfare come into all this?

Animal cruelty is something every society can recognise as a universal emotion. It has no relation to inter-human reaction. In other words, it's nonlinear to people-over people power.
However, we instantly recognise that an animal's suffering is caused by the humans it shares its space with. We feel an emotion towards animals in distress - particularly companion animals like cats and dogs - regardless of how far away the suffering may be. It affects us on a more personal level because we tend to empathise with the suffering of all companion animals equally, wherever they are in the world - i.e. either seeing a dog being bludgeoned to death on TV or stroking our own sick cat sitting on our lap. When we see that a country is mistreating these kinds of animals we can quickly feel impartial towards its entire people. In effect, we are accusing an entire culture and this reflects a short-sighted judgement, revealing a common layer of prejudice.
But in some cases, animal treatment through traditions that we consider blatantly cruel, is often part of religion-based lifestyles. Those lifestyles will often resist criticism from the outside and therefore rarely consider change.

So how is international intolerance felt and viewed from inside the accused country?
What causes a country's mistreatment towards the treatment of domestic animals?
This is how we begin this journey; to determine the different relationships that nations of opposites have towards their animals.

Olympic strays ran for their lives ... and lost.

From a western tourist's point of view, the countries and islands of the Mediterranean are always a good place to start; traditionally notorious for the mistreatment of domestic animals.
In the case of international impartiality towards Greece and its animal welfare record - a country passionately driven by national pride and tradition - there has been a gloomy scenario, which still leaves its stray dog and cat population fighting for its life... and with no easy way of escape.
In 2004, world attention turned towards Greece as Olympic hosts. This triggered the usual flurry of UK and international press reports on the treatment of the huge stray animal problem found on the streets of Athens and other towns across the country and its islands. Infamous for this topic that never seems to go away, there was concern amongst some Greeks that its entire people might be tarred with the same brush by the international community.
In fact, there were and still are numerous native Greek animal rescue groups who are working tirelessly to stamp out animal cruelty in their country for good. But because poisoning and neglect is still widespread - particularly prior to that August, as thousands had been poisoned around the Olympic venues - the groups continued their battle with their own obstructive authorities as they attempted to fly out those they have rescued to loving homes abroad.
And while these good Samaritans dedicate themselves to a great cause, Greek reactionaries scoff at such deeds of compassion; Superstition, ingrained tradition and pride dictates to them that being seen as instigators of animal cruelty reveals flaws and failings within their cultural make-up. This jingoistic attitude goes as far as attempting to smear the country's own do-gooders with false accusations.
Such mentality caused turmoil amongst Greek animal welfare groups, the country's media and an easily misinformed population who will initially prefer to side with the notion - however false - that doesn't show its culture to be synonymously tied with animal cruelty. It's on this basis that an innocent Greek rescue worker along with three foreigners had been falsely accused of trafficking animals for fur and vivisection and receiving payments from international sources. (see part one) By believing this accusation, the Greek public showed that they would rather go with a story that fits in better with the desire to drive an optimistic merry-go-round of patriotism rather than get to the truth. The truth being that the accused in question, along with many of their own rescue groups were desperately trying to transport neglected Greek animals to countries who would give them a caring home - again a truth which any highly patriotic country might not feel so comfortable at accepting.

Regions like the Mediterranean bask in climates that provide ideal conditions for dogs and cats to live outside and breed throughout the year. Initially, this is why so many animals gather around populated areas, where scraps of food or the occasional hand-out might be found. This gives more reason why authorities should exercise humane, no-kill methods to control their numbers, and at the same time provide proper education to its citizens about compassionate responsibility and care towards their animals.

Godzilla versus the Medusa

Traditions, myths, superstition and religions of opposite world cultures have undoubtedly carved the differences, which either favour or disregard certain animal species. But it's only when you explore a country's history that you discover inherent links that reveal the source of its current social behaviour towards animals. With cultural contrasts in mind, there's no finer example than Greece when compared to a country like Japan.
The writings of ancient Greek scholars offer a wealth of animal related stories, and one creature most favoured amongst its peoples was the dolphin. In mythology, Odysseus worshiped them, Poseidon loved them and Amphitrite was the "mother" of them. There are also stories of wondrous deeds done by dolphins (believed to be nearly or equally as "intelligent" as man), that saved the lives of Greek villagers and mariners. Today these mammals are the subject of conservation programmes all around the Greek islands of the Agean sea. In Japan however, dolphins have never received such affection, and along with endangered whales, around 20,000 are slaughtered each year off the Japanese coasts. In stark irony, the Japanese are mad on dogs and there's a roaring trade in expensive pooches, particularly the miniature variety because of their apparent Pokemon-style cuteness - cute being a favourite Japanese passion.
Japan is also quick to point out that dog is not on their culinary menu - although dolphin is it's sold as pet food to feed their dogs.

But while dolphins have been protected in Greece, its history illustrates a mixed relationship with dogs, ultimately describing them as no more than a commodity for religious sacrifice. Some Greek legends portray dogs with intuition and healing powers, and Homer's writings indicate that he acknowledged canines with a fair share of empathy. There are in fact two aspects of how Greeks viewed dogs. Based on Homer's Odyssey, Greeks were highly encouraged to cherish their dogs. But more overwhelmingly, dogs were an important part of Greek religion and considered sacrificial. Because of this they were allowed to breed freely, then harvested and killed for sacrifice. This became increasingly common, because dogs were cheap and very easy to come by, and so they were regarded as a commodity or a house guard rather than a four legged companion.
These two roles of dogs in early Greek culture may explain the paradox in modern Greece. Many modern Greeks are animal lovers, but usually there's a degree of age-old superstition attached. This may also explain why many Greek pet owners refuse to have their animals neutered because they believe they should enjoy a sex life. In fact, animal euthanasia is technically illegal in Greece, which sounds fine until you begin to discover the secret culling of street animals in their thousands.
This shows there is no doubt that the legacy of twisted customs and superstitions rooted into Greek folklore is widely evident on the streets to this day, a cultural stain which some Greeks, who appear to belong to an unknown administration, were determined to make invisible around the Olympic arenas, through systematic poisoning of its strays.

While noting the historical link between religion, culture and its "plentiful" dog population, it's worth considering how important the Olympic Games are to Greece's heritage.
Chronologically, Ancient Greece ran on a four year cycle, so each fourth year heralded the "Olympiad" and a huge festival was held to mark the occasion. Only native, free-born Greeks were allowed to qualify for its festival games, which was principally a religious event to celebrate the god Zeus. In fact, religious sacrifices took place on the first day of the Olympic proceedings, and dogs in all probability were used for this purpose. The games were held solely in Greece for perhaps as long as sixteen hundred years, and were so important that regional wars were stopped so everyone could attend.
In 394 AD the games came to an end.
It wouldn't be until fifteen hundred years later that the British first rekindled the idea of the Olympic Games. They weren't to be fully restored until the last decade of the 19th century, firstly through the foundation of the National Olympian Society in Britain, then followed by the efforts of an enthusiastic Frenchman called Baron Pierre Coubertin. It was through Coubertin that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was finally born. Eventually, Coubertin and the IOC approached Greece to host the first modern Olympics, but strangely, the Greek government resisted the idea to begin with, until Georgios Averoff of Alexandria donated almost a million gold drachmas to build a stadium in Athens. And so in 1896 the first modern Olympic Games were opened by the King of Greece himself.
In August 2004 the games of the XXVIII Olympiad came home to Greece for the first time after 108 years absence.

The Greeks took unprecedented measures to make sure that their 2004 games would be the ultimate spectacle of world focus. The government put up strong resistance to any speculation that terrorism might jeopardise the games, and played down the bombing of an Athens police station exactly 100 days before the games opening. However, the IOC had for the first time insured against full or partial cancellation of the games for 93 million dollars. At the same time the Greeks spent an unprecedented one billion euros on Olympic security - around four times more than Australia spent for the 2000 games.
The Greeks were entirely focused on presenting a glossy cultural image to its international visitors - and with clearly no role for its stray dog and cat population. The result was that Athens pulled out all the stops as "unknown" parties "cleansed" the streets using poison. This was carried out with the minimum of fuss so not to draw the attention of the international community.
Animal protection groups claim that more than 3,000 stray animals were slaughtered in Athens during August 2003 while the city took its annual vacation. On New Years Day 2003, sixty dogs and cats - victims of balls of meat laced with strychnine - were found dead in the famous Athens National Gardens. With around 15,000 street animals in the capital alone, rescue groups were understandably nervous about how the remainder would be "managed" as the games got closer.
In fact, Greek authorities wil always strongly deny responsibility for any culling, whether during a major event or not - as does its tourist information, which no doubt realises the importance of playing down the animal issue.
In 2003, the Mayors Office of Athens announced plans to address the street animal crisis involving a sterilization and adoption program. It was also reported that the Mayor herself had adopted two strays. As part of the Pre-Olympic propaganda these announcements seemed like hollow gestures and promises rather than urgent action and protection of their animals. Instead, all signs indicated that a British style animal welfare tactic of "out of sight, out of mind" was being exercised on the streets around Olympic venues before it was more commonly realised how the stray animal problem was being gruesomely addressed.
Some animal lovers took matters into their own hands, and while the rest of Greece polished up its appearance before the games, there were stories of both Greeks and foreigners trying to smuggle strays out of the country by any means possible to save them from a slow, painful death.
During the last days before the Olympic opening ceremony Greek animal rescuers were saying"... as far as Olympic visitors are concerned everything looks perfect. Nice streets, corners, stadiums ... but in fact there is poison all over the place and Athens is eerily void of stray animals".
Continued >

Continued ... click here for next page>


Pride, Poison and Prejudice around the Parthenon MENU

Part 1 - Main Story
Part 2 - Analysis - Pre-Olympic Jitters?
you are here> Page One of Part 3 - Backgrounds of Greece and other countries cited as cruel to animals
Photo Page - caution contains upsetting images

Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal News Copyright.
All rights reserved. www.veggieglobal.com and www.looking-glass.co.uk.
Any unauthorized redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents of these websites in any form is prohibited.
For permissions please use the
contact form


Where am I?

You are currently viewing the news site which is part of a unique non-profit web retreat.
Looking-Glass.co.uk and its sister site VeggieGlobal.com provide extensive resources on vegetarianism, animal welfare, humanitarianism, conservation, global healing campaigns and more.

This retreat is designed to help empower and inspire the world to think and act with natural diligence and compassion.

Thank you.

explore veggieglobal l explore looking-glass

the art of compassionLooking-Glass Homelands reception. Click on this house if you ever get lost.

A brief journey around
Looking-Glass & VeggieGlobal

VeggieGlobal Main Features
Looking-Glass Main Entrance
Animal Gateway
Environmental Gateway
Humanitarian Gateway

Meaties Turning Veggie
Veggies Intro to VeggieGlobal
Nutrition Guide
Ethical Labelling
Wildlife Gardening and Care
Animal Care
LaFAN (Lost & Found)

Global News
VeggieGlobal Dating
Good Cause Support
SOS Crisis International
Subscribe to VeggieGlobal

Your Letters
Contact VeggieGlobal
Copyright Stuff
Terms - Conditions - Privacy Policy
Detailed Sites Map

Looking-Glass © all rights reserved