Most people commonly associate the age old saying ‘Man’s best friend’ with our wild animal family member, the dog. Dog fever is a phenomena sweeping the western world by storm from popular television shows such as Paul O’Grady’s ‘For The Love Of Dogs’ to legendary stories of Japanese Hero ‘Hachiko’ the akita dog that waited for his owner on a train platform for 10 years. Organisations such as The American Kennel club have documented that there are more pet dogs in the USA than there are people in Britain. However, it is for this very reason that dogs are also coming under threat as strays as well as pets, and are viewed as pests or even stolen and abused only to be traded for meat or barbarically murdered in other parts of the world such as Romania, Bulgaria, China, Vietnam and South Korea. The purpose of my article is to explore the evolving perception and linguistics of our beloved yet threated friends and the imbalance between cultural attitudes.
“Gentlemen of the jury, a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow, and the snow drives fiercely, if only he can be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.”
‘Eulogy To A Dog’: George Graham Vest 1870
This rather touching and heartfelt speech came about during a court case in Warrensburg, Missouri, where George Graham Vest sued a farmer for shooting his much loved friend. It definitely represents a sentiment that any dog or animal lover can relate to today in many countries particularly the west. In previous years, surprisingly, dogs were not always favoured by man and were often treated with sentimental detachment and see rather as hunting dogs, and the concept of hanging dogs was a common one amongst those that caught dogs chasing sheep, which we now view as just canine playfulness. The case of old drum, it has been said, represents a turning point in history in terms of our attitudes to dogs. Dogs have become man’s hero as well as his best friend; Other canine heros, include Hachiko, the dog that waited at Shibuya railway station in Japan for his much loved owner for 10 years. Memorials have been constructed in his honour around Shibuya and are popular and much loved not only by locals but by tourists. Dogs fight by our side in wars and even give up their lives to protect us. The US war dog’s association has documented the love and respect we have for our canines serving in the military allowing users to share their stories, get an insight into the duties and work military dogs do, as well as commemorate and honour our four legged soldiers that have sacrificed their lives in order to save ours. So why is it when dogs have undeniably demonstrated their strong ability to feel, and demonstrate loyalty, courage and protectiveness for humans do we still act so barbarically and cruelly?
Two key examples of this are the practices of the dog meat trade and the cold hearted disposal of dogs; both strays and pets in countries such as Romania, China, Vietnam, South Korea and Bulgaria. It’s hard to think that what we consider family members others view as meat or food. This practise started centuries ago when famine and food shortages were common and people turned to other sources of meat protein, such as dog and cat meat as no other options were available. But today in China and the rest of the world food consumption is very high, so the trade and slaughter of dog and cat meat seems unnecessary and extremely cruel! A lot of these dogs are stolen from families who love and adore them, or trafficked off the streets under the belief that they are pests or unwanted, and fall victim to inhumane and horrific slaughter practices that are monstrous in every sense of the word. These include being hung and skinned whilst another dog watches on as the belief is in south east Asia that fear increases sexual potency of the meat, some have their legs broken so they can’t flee and then their throats cut, in some areas they are cramped into small cages in display for consumers to pick and choose whilst they are still alive and then taken out back and killed. Can you hand on heart as you read this statement, say that this is acceptable behaviour from any human? Witness accounts have documented the insufferable and tragic crying, yelping and howling during the process of slaughter coming from these amazing, intelligent and feeling creatures.
Organisations such as World Animal Protection (www.worldanimalprotection.org) are doing all they can to raise awareness of these tragic, and I would call old world practices, and I would go as far to say that this has nothing to do with culture! In a world where every country is vying for power, we are modernising and evolving with one another to stay competitive and to remain on top. Countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan have even banned the dog meat trade, as well as becoming unpopular amongst younger generations in countries still practising such as South Korea, the Philippines, China and Vietnam . In the viral world we live in where capacity for information and communication is a black hole, younger generations are savvy to the need to change and develop to move forward and help the animals and environment to sustain an Earth which, is I would say, struggling to meet human demands. Rather than fighting our animal friends for space and power should we not recognise their vitality in sustaining our ways of life?
Romania has become a hotbed of murderous activity against stray dogs treating them as if they are vermin and to be honest I don’t think there is any need for it. Why do they feel justified in storming rescue homes or a dog walking on the street and then beating it up, and killing it slowly whilst another films it? In a particular case, in the small village of Devin in Bulgaria, one man was persecuted by other villagers for taking in a stray dog called Borko. These villagers beat defenceless Borko when he was a puppy, so badly, leaving his spine broken and paralysed that he could no longer walk. Dr.Litov and his family took him in thankfully. Luckily, the state found the evidence inadmissible and Dr. Litov and Borko were reunited . I am thankful to human beings such as Dr. Litov, the young generations of China, South Korea and Vietnam that despite the cultural pressures, they see the need to give these intelligent animals a chance at a good and loving life, that they are not the enemy but ‘Man’s best friend’.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that the world is on a witch hunt to demonise these cultures or countries; it just wants to give these stray animals as well as family members, a right and a voice. After finding that many stray dogs were walking into stadiums in the chaos and confusion of the construction of the Sochi Olympic village, a company was ordered to carry out a mass cull of these dogs with the general sentiment suggesting that they didn’t matter and wouldn’t be missed. One representative for this company went as far as calling these dogs “biological trash”. Well, it’s no wonder the world exploded in outrage with petitions blowing up social networking sites and overflowing with signatures. With the political and rather tense history between the west and Russia, there is bound to be some inference that old grudges were resurfacing. Nevertheless thanks to the compassionate actions of one of Russia’s richest men; Oleg Deripaska, as well as social networking campaigns, as many as 150 dogs were rescued and rehomed. In an interview with the BBC he stated,
“My first dog I found in the street of my village, the tiny village [where I grew up]… It was a very close friend for almost five years.”
Over the centuries attitudes have adorned themselves to the essence of our canine friends; their love, protection, loyalty, intelligence and life. In my opinion, we owe it to them to be worthy of such devotion. I wouldn’t even say the linguistics are culturally specific, instead in my opinion, it is more about education. We have dogs fighting in wars, showing us companionship when we’re alone, protecting us when we are scared, standing by us through good and bad times, so I strongly believe there is no justifiable reason to beat them for walking freely on the street or brutally put them through an agonising death for their meat. These dogs do no harm and show strength and character through adversity, and we as humans could learn a lot from them. It’s easy to forget that in order to modernise, we as humans need to show more compassion. Throughout this article, there are examples of the strength of the friendship between a dog and his owner. Dogs are really man’s best friend and I think it’s time we showed them the respect, love and care they so rightly deserve.
• To sponsor a dog please click on the links below http://www.k9-rescue.org.uk/become-a-k9-sponsor-angel • End the dog meat trade in the Philippines https://networkforanimals.netdonor.net/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1736&ea.campaign.id=21656
• Stop the mass killing of dogs in Romania http://takeaction.wspa.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=11&ea.campaign.id=23048&ea.tracking.id=em&j=16413033&e=