Monday, 16 April 2012

Animal Lovers?

I'm getting all serious here. Sorry folks, but it is quite an important subject, after all…

Some time ago I posted a brief piece on Facebook about animal cruelty. It was prompted largely in response to the "knee-jerk" reaction that I feel is exhibited by many ex-pat Brits living out in Greece to the way in which many Greeks treat their animals.

I'd like to get one thing established right here: I don't agree with cruelty of any kind, whether it be to an animal or to another human being. I certainly think that anyone who willfully inflicts suffering on another sentient being ought to be well and truly punished in whatever is the appropriate manner, commensurate with the pain inflicted.

There exists a campaign, which I believe is run from the UK, which attempts to get British travellers to avoid visiting Greece until she finally enforces her already-existing animal cruelty laws. The attitude seems to be that in Greece the amount of cruelty (which frequently amounts to neglect rather than out and out cruelty) is unacceptable and therefore people should show their disapproval by avoiding the country as a holiday destination until things improve.

Although I understand how these people feel, I believe that they are somewhat misguided. There are other countries which attract large numbers of tourists from the UK where people, not just animals, are ill-treated, being left to beg in extremely humble circumstances, sell their organs, cut off the limbs of their children before placing them on street corners to implore passers-by for cash and so on. No single country has the monopoly on cruelty, neglect or any other of a host of the more unpleasant aspects of humankind's nature.

The propensity which some in Greece display to chain up or tether a dog on a length of chain or rope which is quite clearly not long enough for the poor creature to enjoy a decent life, plus the fact that some people there make a practice of leaving poison in random places, which frequently results in some animal dying in a great deal of pain, is what seems to have raised the "righteous ire" of many British people, who often start up "sanctuaries" or "refuges" for dogs and cats which very soon become over-run with potential canine residents. Some become extremely vocal about how "barbaric" they believe the country to be and they begin to campaign to get Greeks to change their ways when it comes to the treatment of animals. I fully understand how these people feel, but have reservations about just how we ought to be reacting, living as we do as foreigners in their country.

Whilst staying with my mother here in the UK for a few weeks, we've had the opportunity to watch "Countryfile" on the BBC. It's the kind of programme both my wife and I really enjoy. But last week's episode is what prompted me to write this post as it carried a lengthy report about badger baiting. See, here's the thing: we Brits like to think of ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, but it occurs to me that quite a lot of us like our animals killed, chopped up and presented pristinely wrapped in cellophane and styrofoam on the supermarket's chilled cabinet. Even those who don't like to eat animals have the unfortunate tendency to project the impression that we Brits have the monopoly on kindness in the field of animal welfare, when the fact is we have our dark side in equal measure with the Greeks.

The badger baiting piece on Countryfile revealed just how widespread across the UK is this ugly practise. It's not only excessively cruel to the badgers which are tortured and killed in the name of "sport" or "fun", it also causes quite a bit of suffering to the dogs which are sent into the badger sets to confront the terrified badger, which fights back in defense and in the process causes severe injury to the dog's face and head.

What am I getting at here? It's simply this: We Brits ought not (in my opinion, of course) to be so ready to climb onto our high horse, or to assume the high ground in the debate about cruelty to animals. On the BBC website, in the info about the edition of Countryfile to which I refer, they said this: "Badger baiting was outlawed in 1835 but this cruel practice appears to be on the rise. Dragged from their setts by specially-bred dogs, the badgers are forced to fight to the death while the baiters look on, often recording the gruesome scenes on video cameras or mobile phones."

So, in conclusion: Greece may indeed by a place where some awful things are done to animals, but then, so is the UK. Whilst I wholeheartedly condemn cruelty to animals in any form, I prefer to look at the larger picture and give my encouragement and support to the many Greeks I know who are also horrified by the cruelty which some of their compatriots practice. I'm not blinkered enough to project the impression that I come from a nation where our record of animal treatment is any better than that of Greece, because, frankly, it isn't.

A couple of links, if you're interested in more on the subject:

Don't worry folks, I'll get lighter again with the next post, honest!


  1. Excellent post , John. And a subject which is close to my heart. I have always been very uncomfortable with the treatment of some animals by some Greek people. But, as you say, cruelty born of neglect, rather than out and out deliberate mis-treatment. However, we are back to the old theme of...................he who is without sin, cast the 1st stone. Sorry, may be a misquote there but you get the general meaning.There is an animal charity close to my home which has instigated a plan to bring street dogs here from Romania. What is all that about? The rescues are already overflowing here as it is!
    PS Maybe we could share a soapbox!

  2. Trevor Mcilveen17 April 2012 at 17:21

    Tomorrow 18 April, Gloria & I are meeting with a vet from Germany
    More vets arrive on 25 April to start neutering/spaying wild cats / Dogs
    They will be here for 10 days & staying in Kolymbia.
    If we can, we want to catch animals in Kalithies, Pefkos, Lardos & Lindos

  3. Mr Brock B.Adger19 April 2012 at 01:23

    You are right to talk of human unkindness in general. I don't believe there is one country that is any better than any other. It is a universal problem among humans. Only recently my brother was pulled from his home and set upon by dogs. My sister too has suffered this terrifying ordeal whilst her children looked on in fear. I hope an answer can be found for this problem soon.

    1. Well, although I was serious about the subject, seems I've turned up a badger with e-mail!!!