I’ve been typing up stuff from the travel diary that I made when I went to Jeju almost four years ago. Talk about tardy. I still remember after I made it down from Mt Halla thinking it would be the hardest mountain I would ever hike. The descent really was nasty, but that was all before I hiked Huashan (last summer), the nastiness of which no words can fully describe. I’m not sure why it is that I am so keen on hiking when it so often hurts like hell, but I love it. The draft is done but I haven’t tweaked it yet because I’m not in the mood. Nothing in particular is wrong, apart from a dog incident that I will talk about later, I’m just tired and tweaking requires vivacity.
Huashan, Shaanxi, China
Hallasan, Jeju Island, Korea
Part of the reason for the lack of vivacity is because I heard (and then saw, after I went onto the balcony to see what on was going on) a guy beating his dog this afternoon. I’m not talking about a smack on the rump either. When I first heard the sound (fist pounding flesh), I was convinced there was a fight going on outside until I heard the dog cry. I say "cry" because it was not just a yelp. The point is I didn’t do anything. I think I was wrong. People get away with all kinds of rubbish because other people don’t have the courage to stop them. However, there is always a worry when foreigners intervene here that we will cause more trouble than we stop. Of course this is a rather convenient excuse and I am not sure I accept it. I’ve been having issues with some things to do with moral relativism. Actually " having issues" is an understatement. I was positively ballistic about it yesterday because I heard a rumour that The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists wanted to reconsider policies about female circumcision in the light of "cultural sensitivity". It turned out this rumour was false, but it made me see how strongly I think (at least in some situations) that moral relativism is complete rubbish and that if something is bollocks and you see it happening, if you’ve got the guts to do so, you ought jump in and jolly well stop it. I remember seeing a comment on Kristof’s (NYT) Facebook which I loved – "culture is no excuse for misogyny". I don’t think it is an excuse for beating up animals either. I don’t think it is part of the culture here anyway. Which also means that not doing anything to try and avoid messing with another country’s culture is, in this case, also complete rubbish.
At home organisations like the RSPCA are around to report such things to. Here, I have no idea. China is not really big on NGOs and with everything else on its plate, I don’t know that the CCP has a lot of time to bother with protecting animal rights. I suspect a lot of people’s views might be the same as a friend of mine I chatted with shortly afterwards – it was his dog! I don’t buy that. I don’t think paying some money gives you the right to harm an animal. It is alive! It’s not a car or something. And it’s helpless. Beating a dog is like hurting a child in that they can’t really fight back. Even if the dog physically could fight back to protect itself, if you are its owner it probably won’t. Knowing this, I’m not sure how somebody could beat their own dog.
I’ve lived with a canine that chewed up a pair of my high heels and even my glasses. That sucked, but beating the crap out of him would not have taught him anything except fear. The dog and I did actually learn our respective lessons about the virtues of not chewing up shoes and putting things out of the dog’s reach. All done without beating the crap out of the dog. When I see things like what happened today, I wonder if it is such a great thing for people to be able to have pets. I grew up around sheepdogs and had a dog in Taiwan. I love having dogs around, but I am not sure it is fair for animals to have to live with the risk of our fickle and sometimes malevolent natures. Some of us lack control, lack the patience required to train a pet and are just violent jerks. The human race is nasty and arrogant sometimes. I wonder if it is not a sad thing for the rest of the world to have to put up with us.
Actually, I was already feeling sorry for the rest of the animals on the planet after seeing a piece on Yahoo! about a Malaysian official saying something about God creating animals for us to experiment on or some such thing. Funny how some people are so ready to bring God into arguments to justify decisions that they want to make for their own reasons, in this case obviously economic. Not so funny how companies are so ready to run to other places to do things that the laws of their own countries do not allow.
I confess, I’m 100% against animal testing. However, one thing the official said (something that hit a sore spot) was that eating meat hurts animals too. He’s right, although I suspect the levels of pain involved in the meat industry are probably a fair bit less than vivisection. Wearing leather isn’t any good for them either. All this is starting to make me feel uncomfortable and I am wondering whether to stop eating meat again. Let me be clear, I think this kind of thing is a personal choice. It doesn’t bother you? Fine, eat it. You feel squirmish? Don’t eat it. I used to be a vegetarian for seven years. One thing I found during that time is that a lot of people would get defensive when they found out I didn’t eat meat, like by doing this I was making a judgement on the morality of their eating habits. It wasn’t that at all! It just made me feel uncomfortable. And if that is the case, why do it? It was personal and had absolutely nothing to do with anybody else. I stopped after seeing a documentary on food production because I simply couldn’t cope with the utilitarian view the industry seemed to have towards animals.
I stopped being a vegetarian ages ago in Taiwan when I went to a BBQ hosted by the friend of a friend. My friend forgot to warn him that I was a vegetarian (she had told me not to worry because Taiwanese BBQs have lots of vegetables and she would explain to the host) and I found out that when they found out a foreigner was coming they had gone and spent a huge amount of money to buy more meat and seafood. Unable to speak Chinese and unsure of any way out of the situation without hurting the feelings of a complete stranger who had tried to be extremely generous and hospitable towards a foreign guest, I decided that eating animals that were already dead was the lesser of the two evils. I ate a lot. Anybody who has been taken care of by a Taiwanese host will know that they take their duties very seriously and number one is to see their guest full enough to split at the seams. I swear, it caused the worst stomach ache I have ever had in my life. The ache lasted for a few days, but after it was over I decided that life was much more convenient eating meat. In moderation. I had already been thinking that I was hypocritical feeling uncomfortable about meat when I wore leather shoes, drank milk and ate eggs. While the milk and eggs might not result in the death the animals who produce them, they’re not exactly hunky-dory for the animals involved either. To be honest, I think it would be great if I didn’t do any of these things, but I don’t know that I want to live a life without milk and eggs, or leather shoes. So I will live one of damage control, trying not to do stuff that makes me uncomfortable. For this reason, I still don’t cook meat or eat it at home. When I eat out, I usually order vegetable dishes, unless I’m with friends.
A cute little moo cow in Hemu, Xinjiang. Beef noodle soup anybody?!
I’m not sure about all of this. All I know is that the events of today have made me feel rather sorry for the animals we share this world with and less inclined to want to eat one.