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

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

(For Part 1 of this complete report click here)

< continued from part 3 page two


The Twisted Logic Behind Ethical Failure

Between an international perspective and the standpoint inside the "accused" country lies a pool of twisted logic that adds up to irrationality, presumptuousness and self-righteousness.
In this sense, Greece, Turkey, Brazil and other nations mentioned may be no worse "culprits" than any other country, because every society is clearly able to set aside their conscience and rebuff or deny compassionate inadequacy.
When looking from an historical viewpoint, it's easier to determine the grounds of ethical inadequacies, but on the surface of modern day culture, right or wrong just depends on what is visibly obvious and what is actually considered morally acceptable within each country. This pool of "twisted logic" goes for all sensitive issues, whether animal, humanitarian or environmental.

For example:

  • In China, female babies are often abandoned and left for dead, because raising male offspring is a preference dictated by their culture.
  • In India, a "caste" or social order system means that millions of its citizens are called "untouchables" and treated as such.
  • Enforced female circumcision is still widespread across many strict Muslim and Christian countries.
  • Brazil is rapidly destroying a majority percentage of the world's life sustaining forests which threatens the survival of this entire planet.
  • The United States is home to 4% of the world's human population but produces 25% of the world's pollution. The country refuses to adopt any internationally applied protocols to reduce this.

These examples might be unrelated directly to animal welfare - but they are all of a non-compassionate nature - and therefore related when considering how cultural or political acceptance of such behaviour is somehow tolerated by each country. In fact, this shows how universal ethics goes into meltdown when comparing social behaviour across different nations.
Globalized communication - via the internet and satellite TV for example - brings increasing awareness of international injustice, and each emerging democracy entering the global forum has little excuse to continue blatantly cruel behaviour, whether animal, environmental or humanitarian.
So why do long-established democracies like Greece still (secretly) discard its strays with such brutal methods, even though world media is bound to find out and criticize accordingly? It seems that ancient tradition is ingrained so deeply into its culture - and even its politics - that such behaviour remains an acceptably infamous feature of its society - as long as it's not officially revealed.
The same goes for Spain, notorious for their archaic rituals of bullfighting, which everyone can witness - but also the ritual hanging of Galgos and ex British / Irish Greyhounds after they have passed their sporting usefulness - an act unpublicised, and only discovered if you stumble across heaps of dog carcasses in the Spanish countryside.

Paper Puppies

Animal atrocities that are more easily demonstrated provide plenty of news fillers for the international tabloid papers, and for animal loving nations like the UK, a popular subject is visible animal mistreatment in other countries often visited by tourists.
International news stories about cruelty to dogs and cats are periodic eye-catchers, published to captivate brief emotion rather than drive an issue which is able to lever any political change within an accused nation.
Variants of token, heart rendering stories from foreign places - either exotic or downcast - hit the tabloids every few months to fulfil the readers' requisite of things furry, cuddly … but often sad. Pictures of skinny dogs, poisoned cats and strung-up puppies invariably shock the reader along with an account, describing the horrific treatment inflicted on these poor animals.
Graphically informed, and uncomfortably numbed, the quickest escape from this unpleasantness is to turn the page. That momentary flicker of compassion fades as the sports page looms - the plight of those animals are forgotten - till next time the paper editor shouts "we need an animal weepy!"
Each story usually reflects the same kind of atrocity each year … just a different "barbaric" country and perhaps a different kind of animal … Greece, Spain, South America, the Far East, Eastern Europe and onwards … the list of countries that treat their animal population with utter disregard for their welfare seems endless. Newspaper editors may just as well keep a template of the same article and re-publish from one year to the next. (Just fill in the blanks - country / animal names / type of cruelty.)
But what these press stories don't examine are the cultural foundations that create those distressing scenarios in the first place. And, as already mentioned, the way a society in one part of the world "traditionally" handles its animals may be very different to a high-tech consumerist nation, dispatching animals and mincing their bodies into pre-packed fast food products from inside an industrialised façade. It may be that un-regulated conduct and therefore ignorance towards animal compassion can reveal a country's open barbarism, like China for example - where millions are crammed into cages everyday then cut up and skinned for food and fur - sometimes while still alive. But mass consumer countries like the UK, US and Western Europe have developed a publicly "accepted" industry, which conveniently hides high-density animal exploitation and appalling conditions behind the closed doors of battery farms, slaughter houses and live export industries.

But of course, there are straight forward unscrupulous groups of opportunists in every country. For example, in the Ukraine, live dogs for experimentation and dog fur is a black market speciality, while in the Far East there is a flourishing cat and dog fur trade. The fur is usually sold to the west, often dyed and given exotic names to disguise its true origin. This fur often ends up as trim on high street fashion garments etc.
Anyone who feels better about buying a garment lined with the fur of an animal they have never heard of instead of simply "cat" or "dog" is all to do with cultural imprinting. Empathizing over specific animals and not others is a more common characteristic of western cultures. Britons, Americans and similar countries will happily make those bizarre distinctions between cuddle and eat without butting an eyelid.
It's important to remember that in comparison to the west, animals, whether cats, dogs or chickens are commonly unrecognised as sentient creatures in many of the countries mentioned here.

What's logical to one person or nation may be irrational to another

As suggested, the UK tabloids are foremost in often encouraging a sense of British self-righteousness by flippantly passing a negative judgement on countries with bad domestic animal welfare records. But how does this kind of finger pointing affect the pride and esteem of the country it is accusing? Can this cause the country to react irrationally within its own boundaries, and effectively pull the wool over its own eyes, making things even worse? The events in Greece prior to the Olympics 2004 have shown this to be the case.
Does haste to hide a country's shame from international view, mean that "street" animals have to die in their thousands?
Street animal "cleansing" was also the scenario in Seoul during preparations for the World Cup in Korea 2002. One important difference is that Korea didn't seem at all bothered who knew about it. In fact some Korean restaurants where offering free samples of dog meat to world cup visitors.
Around two and a half million dogs and cats are slaughtered for food and fur each year in Korea. Instead of poison, the animals are often clubbed to death with pipes and hammers. Koreans believe that the more pain a live animal is subjected to, the more tender the meat, so cats are often boiled alive, while dogs are routinely burnt with torches to brown the skin.
However mad these activities may seem to some other countries, it's also important for the western press and media to understand the psychology and social dynamics from within the accused country itself. To them, poisoning, eating or skinning of dogs and cats is completely normal - to the UK, for example, it's the gruesome act of an immoral race.
But it's really not that simple.
On every social, democratic and journalistic level, methods of diplomacy need to be carefully aligned to acknowledge the accused country's cultural differences. With this in mind, pet loving nations need to widen their perspective of animal compassion and its social implications, which can vary dramatically throughout the world. Rather than sustained accusation, finding cultural inroads to educate from an early age about animal compassion is the ultimate key to a positive change in those "barbaric" countries.

And besides, the "west" and its animal cruelty also have a lot to answer for.

On this subject, there is of course the super-convenient moral about what is dutifully acknowledged as acceptable behaviour towards animals: This is the utterly incomprehensible line drawn between domestic animal welfare and animals for meat consumption - because, what one country considers as a pet another might consider as food or fur.
Here's a classic example: France and some other European countries eat horse. Hypocritical Britain abhors such culinary behaviour but exports its own horses to Europe for meat consumption. And in 2004 a change in British law relating to horse transport has made it even easier to send Dobbin off to French meat markets.
A final word on Greek / UK based double standards; Britain sends a large percentage of their sheep to Greek abattoirs, where many have their throats cut while fully conscious.

Euro Vision

If all animals are sentient creatures then all deserve equal right to a life on earth. So why in this shrinking world of information-sharing - through which we would hope logical learning towards compassionate thinking would spread accordingly - does society ignore such sentiments in their everyday treatment of animals? In fact, Germany was the first European country to give animals constitutional rights, but then it's not far behind the United States as a country that eats the most meat. (India eats the least.)
But the moral maze turns into a ludicrous merry-go-round of double standards, from whichever part of the world you view it from. During 2004 there was no finer example of this cultural inconsistency in action: Ten new countries have joined the European Union, some of which were formerly brow-beaten societies where the issue of animal welfare was never even a recognised subject. Others however were not politically or ethnically oppressed but still have an un-healthy attitude towards the treatment of their animals. New EU entry, Malta is good example of a healthy state where stray animals suffer appalling treatment similar to those in Greece.
All new and pending members of the EU have to meet a certain political criteria regarding trade and industrial agreements, but animal welfare legalities fall far short of what might be considered morally acceptable between all membership states. Farming and slaughter practices, zoo management, transportation, animals in research, sports - i.e. bullfighting, racing etc, and of course, control of stray animals are all issues that lead to wide degrees of moral acceptance or disdain between one EU country and another. Being a popular tourist destination, Greece, an EU member, is one of the most contentious of these.

Three particularly controversial countries set to become EU members around 2007 are Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria. These are currently amongst the most black-listed EU contenders on the continent linked to animal welfare atrocities.
Croatia is just one example of a once putrefied, war-torn society that had little time to consider animal welfare while dealing with its own human related turmoil. But a new Croatia - which has now met its political criteria for EU membership - is evolving quickly, and a younger generation of Croats are now generating public awareness about the archaic animal welfare laws in their country.
One ancient Croatian ruling says that any cat or dog seen more than 300 meters beyond town limits is considered strayed and therefore allowed to be killed. Animals hung from trees outside towns are the result of such crazy laws.
By highlighting their government's out-dated attitudes and laws, new Croatian animal welfare organisations are pressing for a completely revised welfare act. By educating its own peoples and its own leaders about animal compassion and welfare (and to even view it as an economical advantage), the new Croatia could present the perfect opportunity to out-shine its EU neighbours. Now a fast-growing tourist attraction, which is taking over from Spain and Greece, Croatia could effectively demonstrate an example-setting roadmap on how easy any culture can evolve into a more animal / environmentally friendly country.
Turkey, who are vying for EU membership should also take note of this.

Paws for Thought

But however much our planet "cross-evolves" through increasing global communication, it will still be a few generations before a sense of unified compassion towards all animals is slowly recognised throughout most world cultures. Even then, it will depend on which countries own up and act on their mistakes and those which don't. In the meantime, domestic cats and dogs are no doubt already a pet favourite amongst many societies, and because of this they bring huge benefits to people through faithful companionship. This is why, to many of us, the sight of such animals dying of disease and starvation in the streets is an act of inexcusable, cultural ignorance. But there is more. Dogs help humankind in many ways - as aids for the blind - or "sensors" to help find those trapped in earthquakes and disasters. For this alone, surely they deserve more respect from those who otherwise view them as bony blots on the (Olympic) landscape?

Next ... photos relating to this 3 part article - caution contains upsetting images >

This third part of "Pride, Poison and Prejudice around the Parthenon" is an adapted and abridged work.
The content is part of the Animals section of "Earth in Collision" due for release around 2008
Copyright 2004 John O'Donnell.


Pride, Poison and Prejudice around the Parthenon MENU

Part 1 - Main Story
Part 2 - Analysis - Pre-Olympic Jitters
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