Being kind to animals?

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Much ink is spilled, and many decibels produced, by westerners protesting the treatment of animals in Hong Kong, and even more so in China.

There's no doubt Chinese culture lacks a soft spot for animals. One trip to the backstreet markets in Guangzhou, where pangolins, barking deer and civet cats await the cooking pot, will open your eyes to the cruelty with which these living things are treated, as it did mine. Then there are the bear-bile farms, the horrific wild animal parks just across the border in Shenzhen, and so on. It seems in recent years there has been some progress in alleviating some of these cruelties, especially in Hong Kong, but it will certainly take many years before even the worst of them cease.

Looking at how a culture treats animals surely tells us something about it. And yet, I wonder what, exactly.

Let me give you an example. This week has seen the worst flooding in Europe in many years. I read a news story this morning that told of how workers at the zoo in Prague had been forced to put down several elderly animals that were too difficult to relocate, including an elephant, a bear and a lion. One of the workers involved in shooting the elephant was quoted as saying 'It's a horror that can't be described.'

Shooting a beloved elephant can't be much fun. But let's think about this for a moment. The website where I found a link to the zoo flooding story (salon.com) had no links at all to reports of the massive floods plaguing Nepal, India and Bangladesh, where nearly 900 people have died in recent days, and tens of millions have been displaced. It did, however, also have a link to a story on the arrest of several members of an exotic-animal trading ring. It's great to care so much for the fates of animals, but what about other people?

The question is, does a culture's respect for animals reflect its respect for fellow human beings? Or does an excessively sentimental view of animals bespeak a culture's misplaced priorities, and its substituting a concern for animal welfare for caring about human lives?

It's easy for expats in Hong Kong to pass quick judgement on the Chinese people's predilection for trapping and eating the cute, the cuddly, and often the endangered. But do either really care about flooded-out families in Dhaka?

Comments

The Cultural Revolution has

The Cultural Revolution has shattered any humanity that was left with the Chinese.
Being Chinese myself, I just felt sick to see how most Chinese treat, not only the poor animals, but the other people.

They have no respect for other people and for themselves alike - spitting, the way they jostle in a crowd, and how they never ever properly dump rubbish in rubbish bins, etc.

I just don't know what will ever change the mentality of these people. Sigh.

why the extremes?

I've just had my own internal debate and issue yesterday with 'having ' to eat sharks fin soup at a client event.  I think for me, the problem is the extremes of each world view.

I personally place neither animal nor human life above the other.  However, with the 'ascent' and domination of mankind, I have to toss my coin in with the lot of nature.  Note I didn't say animals.  The thing is, much of what is going wrong with the world at the moment is the result of just too many humans and their domesticated animals.  Like too many dogs and cats.  Too many cows (for too much beef) and too many chickens.  Too many antibiotics and hormones in the food chain.  Too little space.  Too much paving over of natural land and caneling of waterways.

We're culling elephants since they're getting in the way of humans.  But we keep on supporting the growth of population.  

I can't but help think that people would be more 'humane' in any society if there were fewer people and they weren't in a constant battle with each other and nature for their own prosperity and survival.