On Tuesday last week, animal lovers gathered outside the Ministry of Defense to protest against a group of marines who abused and killed a dog, called “Whitey.” However, some other people posted comments on the Internet asking why there should be such a fuss just because of a dog.
Just as the Whiteys and “Blackies” of this world did not choose to be born as dogs, it was only by luck that those soldiers were born as humans. Does that give them the right to torment a less fortunate creature? To humans who see themselves as the crown of creation, abusing a dog is of no consequence. This mentality is not just about a dog — it is a matter of the big and the strong bullying the small and the weak. It is about the higher values of humanity and compassion.
If people want to know whether a society is civilized, they need only look at the way it treats animals.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant put it well when he said: “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
Author and Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer said that “as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace.”
Theologian Albert Schweitzer agreed when he said that “until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote: “Love all God’s creation ... love the animals ... don’t harass them.”
Irish author George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Cruelty begets its offspring — war.”
Were all these great minds merely “making a fuss?”
A soldier’s true goal is not to wage war, but to safeguard the nation, so “love for people and all creatures” is their highest military ethic. If soldiers behave in a brutal manner, it is a national disgrace.
As if the dog’s death was not bad enough, some people sought to use the incident to wage political struggle.
A pan-blue supporter, surnamed Ing (應), said that a mass protest would be held on Ketagalan Boulevard yesterday to bid farewell to Whitey. However, he admitted that the purpose was to mock the mass protest that took place three years ago to bid farewell to army conscript Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) after he died of heat exhaustion.
Writing on Facebook, Ing told pan-blue supporters that this would be “a great opportunity” to strike back against their pan-green opponents and put pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) government.
Tsai, a well-known cat lover, did not cause the dog abuse, which has nothing to do with the Democratic Progressive Party’s policies, so what is the talk of striking back?
What people really need to reflect upon is Chinese culture’s inherent view of animals. In ethnic Chinese societies, people gorge themselves on crispy duck, ginger duck, Peking duck and Nanjing salted duck, while in the US, Donald Duck entertains people of all ages.
In Chinese minds, tigers, leopards, jackals and wolves are hateful things and when a mouse crosses the street everyone shouts “kill it,” but Western culture produces cute and approachable characters like the Pink Panther and Mickey Mouse.
If people only relate to birds and beasts by eating their flesh and wearing their fur and feathers, what sense would they see in making a fuss over a mere dog?
It is not enough to become an independent nation or even one where democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law prevail. Taiwan must go further by becoming a humanitarian, compassionate and civilized nation.
Lee Hsiao-feng is a professor at the National Taipei University of Education's Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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