AbeBooks.com. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.
Feed on

The Whistler Dog Slaughter

When will we face the contradictory, dishonest way we nurture and kill animals?

Much has been written about the ghastly slaughter of 100 dogs in Whistler by a company that used them as sled dogs, an event very popular, I’m told, at last year’s Olympics. Attention has been drawn to how we slaughter, indeed raise, animals for our dinner plates, and I’ll come back to that in a moment.

I’m sure that many of you are animal owners and, like me, dog lovers. I happen to be owner of the greatest dog in the entire world, Chauncey (a chocolate Labrador). I’m sure many wept upon reading the news of the massacred sled dogs. The killing was bad enough, but the dogs had to watch as their companions were shot. As a dog lover, I find that the worst part of this disgusting spectacle.

There are, of course, issues to be decided here, but I think there’s a much deeper one, namely the public’s ambivalence — too weak a word — on treatment of animals, going back to the caveman.

That’s a bit far back for me, so let’s just look at Biblical times. In Genesis 1:28, we see: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Leviticus goes into great detail on what can and cannot be eaten and what is “unclean”, and I must say in fairness it has a comedic bent to it. Here it is:

“Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying, “These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud; that you may eat. Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.”‘”

‘Dumb’ animals?

I infer from all this that the rule, for humans, is that all animals are fair game whether we eat them or not, but if we eat animals without cloven hooves, that’s evil. Since I don’t like pork, I think this is a good rule.

But what about our inherited attitude towards what we call “dumb animals?”

Beasts of burden have been such for millennia. The horse, the donkey (which Jesus rode in his famous ride into Jerusalem), the ox and camel are too deeply buried in the human psyche to admit any change in attitude.

Unhappily, there is another attitude buried within mankind called cruelty.

To move a little closer in time, during the era of great human development and enlightenment starting in the 18th century, human liberties came to people and we slowly abolished torture and cruel prison conditions. (A progress in the United States grinding to a halt under President George W. Bush.) During those centuries of progress, dog fights, cock fights, and bear baiting were huge spectacles. The latter reminds one of Macaulay’s famous quote, “The puritan hated bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.”

Portugal, Spain, Mexico, parts of southern France, plus some other Latin American countries still have bull fights where a bull is tormented until he’s enraged, then is killed strictly for pleasure — excepting Portugal, where the bull is tormented but not killed until after the fight. Sort of like a governor halting an execution and then, a day or two later, withdrawing his reprieve.

The difference between bull fighting and bear-baiting is lost on me.

Regaled by rodeos

If the aim of decent society is to eliminate cruelty to animals, how can rodeos get away from bucking cattle and horses?

The allegation that the animal’s testicles are bound was certainly once the case, but apparently is no longer so. The fact remains, by reason of the animal bucking, it demonstrates it would much prefer to be elsewhere.

This, then, amounts to exploiting an animal by getting it pissed off for human amusement. The bottom line is that the commercial value of rodeos is considerable, with the Calgary Stampede at the top of the money tree.

Much has been written on this subject from the point of view of raising animals for human consumption, and much must be done. The way these animals (chickens for example) are brought up in unbelievable torment is something chicken and egg eaters don’t want to see or even contemplate. However, this practice is rooted in the human psyche, which says animals are for us and if we give relief to some, that doesn’t derogate from our right to do as we please with others.

What about sea mammals? Or large fish? Should aquariums incarcerate these beautiful animals for the pleasure of the public?

On a recent visit to Dubai we were taken to a touristy place and told that the owner had snared some 200 dolphins from the Solomon Islands to entertain visitors! Truly nauseating!

Is this any different than caging bears as we once did in Stanley Park? Is there a difference between putting small fish in a tank as opposed to, say, a shark?

Mourn the fish on your plate?

There’s another very uncomfortable fact we resist mightily — whether it’s the failing fishing fleet or fish farms, we kill them by suffocation. I don’t have an answer to this vexing problem. It’s hard to envision how a seiner could kill their catch humanely, although I see no reason, other than economics, that fish farms couldn’t use alternative measures.

In summary then, I raise the fish question to underscore the point that for most of the public who support banning cruelty to animals, there is a line they won’t cross.

It’s illogical to defend an act by saying that others do as bad or indeed worse things, and it’s impossible to sort out all cruelty to animals and immediately ban it.

What is logical and possible is that we start taking this issue seriously for, unfortunately, those who do act cruelly to animals respond by saying we’re all hypocrites.

Which, sadly, is true.

Leave a Reply