Saturday, November 20, 2004

Wretched Animals

By Skald

Just as the homeless people in Bangkok are typically wretched, so too the homeless animals. I'm a critter loving vegetarian, so it has been difficult to adjust to the daily scene of horrors that I encounter on Bangkok's roads. Never have I seen so many injured, starving, mangy, animals in my life (actually, that's not true, India was worse).

The dogs in particular are in horrid shape. The cats seem to do much better, perhaps its easier for them to eat a healhty diet of mice and rats... which are plentiful in the city. But the dogs are often skin stretched over bone. They hobble around pitifully but seem to get no sympathy from the average Thai person. In fact, many Thais... many Thai men that is, will kick or hit the dogs as a way of venting frustrations. Thai society discourages direct confrontation or anger between people, so the animals often get the brunt of mis-directed rage.

Injury is very common-- and again the dogs seem to be the worst. For some reason, the most common injury is a broken back leg. These seem to be the result of getting hit by cars mostly. Many Thai drivers make no effort to slow or avoid an animal in the road... and the animals are always in the road... especially the smaller ones. Another problem is that dogs often sleep under parked vehicles to avoid the intense tropical sun. Typically, a driver will leap into the car, start the engine and zoom off before the dog has time to get away... and thus its leg or body gets run over. Considerate Thais will always check under their car first... and shoo away the animals. But many don't seem to care.

Worse still, people don't take their animals to the vet. I saw a pet dog get hit in the back leg by a car..... it squealed terribly and came running over to its owner.... back leg held high and clearly injured..... The owner just grinned, looked at it for a second, and went back to eating his lunch. I see this dog all the time-- its broken leg has healed, but is not useable... so that it now has only three functional legs. Its a shame, because its a beautiful and otherwise healthy animal. Apparently, spending time and money on an animal is not a priority.

In my more irritable moments I am annoyed by the hypocrisy of supposedly devout Thai Buddhist who in fact follow none of Buddhisms teachings of compassion.... but then I am reminded of the hordes of war-mongering, gay-baiting, anger filled "Christians" in America. Religious hypocrisy is a global phenomenon.

Of course, this is not true of all Thai Buddhist. For example, temples are the typical location of Thai "animal shelters". In other words, people often drop off their strays at temples, because the monks will feed them and will not kill them. Its a strange phenomenon. Buddhism prohibits killing so Thais won't kill stray dogs. But they have no problem with beating them, starving them, or letting them suffer terribly while doing nothing. They say they will not kill animals because of Buddhist teachings, yet eat large amounts of meat. In other words, they are following dogma and ritual and don't really care about the spirit of the teachings.

So what can I or another individual do? Again, its a personal dilemma. The suffering is overwhelming and well beyond my capacity to dent. Basically, I do the little that I can.... but mostly this too is a systemic/cultural problem. What would truly help would be: compassionate treatment from the Thais towards their animals (requiring alot of public education), publicly funded spay and nueter programs, publicly funded vaccination programs, and the like. If I learned anything as a social worker... its that societal problems must be addressed at the societal level.

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