March 2004 - Last updated October 2008
Poison and Prejudice around the Parthenon.
3 - Page 3 - Backgrounds of Greece and other countries cited as
cruel to animals
Part 1 of this complete report click here)
< continued from part 3 page two
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
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.
- 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
logical to one person or nation may be irrational to another
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Paws for Thought
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?
... photos relating to this 3 part article - caution contains upsetting
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.
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