Sun, May 05, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Dog saga has deeper lessons

A twist of fate has made "Hokget" (福吉) one of the most internationally-renowned dogs, next to Lassy. People across the globe smiled and sighed in relief over a touching end to the dog's lonely ordeal aboard a drifting hulk for 24 days, but this story has more to it than just cuteness.

Many were quick to point out the American values highlighted by this incident -- the respect and value attached to all lives, animals and humans alike. After all, this happy ending came after multiple rescue attempts, air drops of pizzas, granola bars, and oranges to the pooch, as well as the expenditure of a lot of money. Animal lovers in the US demonstrated that they pay a lot more than lip service to their beliefs.

Of course, critics were quick to point out that it seems ironic for the Americans to spend so much money on one single dog, when there are so many more needy and homeless dogs in the US. But, one can only do what is reasonably within one's power. The peace of mind one feels upon doing that is what makes everything worthwhile. The real significance in the entire Hokget saga is not just in the fact that one dog's life was saved, but the ease in conscience felt by the public.

The argument that all the money and efforts put into the rescue would have been better spent on needy humans isn't convincing either. The argument presumes that human lives have more value, when animals are often much more likeable than some human beings. Reportedly, Hokget had refused to let her rescuers get close to her, because she was trying to defend the fuel tanker on which she had grown up. That kind of loyalty and courage is a lot more than one can say for some people in this country.

In comparison to the Americans, the people of Taiwan really should bow in shame about the way dogs are treated here. The number of stray dogs has reached alarming proportions in Taiwan. Reportedly, many are discarded because either they are too sick or that they are born as a result of pregnancies unwanted by their owners. These problems could easily be resolved by regular inoculation shots and neutering of dogs.

Worse yet, some people in Taiwan still engage in the practice of feng sheng (放生) -- the setting free of animals into the wild -- for religious reasons. While they may think they are doing a good deed, in fact they are guaranteeing these animals a miserable life and usually an early and often very unpleasant death. Taiwan has few natural habitats in which these animals can survive on their own, not to mention the fact that tamed pets often have extreme problems surviving in the natural environment.

Also the people of Taiwan do not have a culture of adopting stray dogs, so most of the stray dogs rounded up by the relevant government agency are killed, often in a very gruesome manner.

Of course, in comparison with the dogs on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, dogs here are virtually in paradise. The practice of dog-eating is a lot more prevalent in China, where the police are reportedly in the process of engaging in yet another major crackdown on unlicensed dogs. Among the first to be killed are the 7,100 dogs already rounded up by the Shanghai Police.

Does this mean the people in Taiwan have any reasons to feel comfortable? Of course not. China is notorious for its barbarism to both animals and humans. Taiwan must do a lot better than that.

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