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Animal-rights activists win some, lose some

July 3, 2011 at 5:30 AM   |   Comments

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Organizers of a dog-meat festival at a suburban South Korean market near Seoul canceled the weekend event because of pressure from protesters who oppose the slaughter of dogs.

The Korean Dog Farmers' Association planned the July 1 event to promote the idea that dogs are simply livestock, Korea Animal Rights Advocates, a volunteer, non-profit animal-rights group, said on their Web site.

"The selling and consumption of dog meat is not prohibited by law," KARA said, "even though it is illegal to butcher dogs and sell dog meat because dogs are not classified as livestock. To put it a better way, dog meat is neither legal nor illegal. The Korean government keeps the issue in legal limbo and prefers not to do anything about it."

The Wall Street Journal said three years ago health officials in South Korea were pushing for more formal rules on the killing of dogs and the handling of dog meat. Animal-rights activists opposed formal sanitation laws because it would legitimize the technically illegal practice of dog farming.

Meanwhile, a canine food festival where more than 15,000 dogs are expected to be on the menu is on in eastern China where dog is still a popular dish and small dogs are regarded as especially tasty.

The dog meat barbecue in Yulin may be a bit much for most U.S. residents where a recent Harris Poll found nearly two-thirds of households have pets, and 91 percent of pet owners surveyed consider their animals members of the family.

With affluence rising in China efforts are under way to ban eating of dogs and cats. Legal experts at The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences last year drafted animal-rights laws calling for jail time and fines to protect dogs and cats from slaughter, The Guardian reported.

Consumption of dog meat has been regarded as medicinal in China for thousands of years, but now pet dogs have become common in Chinese cities among a growing pet-loving middle-class.


In other animal news

In a decision riddled with controversy, the Dutch parliament last week voted overwhelmingly to ban Muslim halal and Jewish kosher methods of animal slaughter.

The measure would specifically outlaw slaughter of animals that have not been anesthetized or stunned; stunning animals is not permitted by Muslim or Jewish religious law.

In the shechita butchering technique of observant Jews, the animals are not stunned before their throats are slit with sharp knives and their blood is drained. Halal butchers use a similar technique. There are about 1 million Muslims and 40,000 Jews in Holland.

The vote was 116-30 in favor of an animal-rights measure proposed by the Netherlands' Party for the Animals to stop ritual butchering practices of live animals in the European country. The Dutch Senate is expected to debate the bill in September.

David Zwartz, chairman of the Wellington Jewish Council, who opposed a similar law in New Zealand last year, told CNN for Jews the proposal is "an attack on their freedom to practice their religion in a way that they have done for thousands of years."

The issue has resulted in unlikely agreement between Dutch Jewish and Islamic groups opposed to the law.

"They claim that ritual killing without stunning cause(s) more pain for the animals than with stunning, but I don't agree," said Abdulfettah Ali-Salah, director of the Halal Correct Certification organization in the Netherlands.

He warned the ban could force observant Jews and Muslims to get meat from foreign countries, CNN reported. "Many, believers, if they are Jewish, Muslim, have to search for other alternatives -- probably import from abroad and from Islamic countries."

The level of support for the measure may have been surprising because the Party for the Animals has just two members in Parliament. The Financial Times said the ban has wide support from Holland's centrist parties who support it on secular scientific grounds -- that animals should not be conscious and alert while being butchered.

"This way of killing causes unnecessary pain to animals. Religious freedom cannot be unlimited," Party of Animals leader Marianne Thieme said. "For us religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins."

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs likened the ban to anti-Semitic laws passed during the Nazi occupation of Holland during World War II.

"One of the first measures taken during the occupation was the closing of kosher abattoirs," he told The Daily Telegraph.

European Union member nations Sweden and Luxembourg -- as well non-members Norway and Switzerland -- and North American nations have required stunning of animals before slaughter for decades, with some exceptions for religious ritual, the Telegraph said.

The Dutch Labor party, the leftist D66 party and Liberals joined on a compromise amendment that would permit ritual slaughter of unstunned animals if it can be proven not to cause more suffering for the animals than stunned slaughter.

The question is whether traditional shechita or halal slaughter is as painless as modern slaughter techniques, if the practices used in industrialized meat processing can be considered painless or ethical.

Last week, the European Parliament food safety committee voted in favor of mandatory food labeling that would tell consumers whether their meat comes from animals that were not stunned before slaughter.

The labels on food products would state: "Meat from slaughter without stunning." The full European Parliament considers the proposal in July.

"We are worried that it could spread," said Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi in Britain. "There has been a non-stop campaign by animal welfare activists to have all forms of ritual slaughter banned. It has to be fought everywhere because if it's lost anywhere it has a potential domino effect."

The fight shows just how far animal rights has come.

Mrs. Jarris, my high school biology teacher, used chloroform to render live frogs unconscious before students dissected them -- but we didn't eat them. When she ran out of chloroform, she suffocated a live frog by squeezing it tightly in her fist until it stopped kicking as the class watched.

No one dared say a word.

That was before computer simulations of biological systems and medical techniques existed.

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Finally, Trouble, one of the world's richest dogs once owned by the late hotel real-estate heiress Leona Helmsley, died in early June at age 12.

When Helmsley died in 2007, she disinherited two grandchildren and left the Maltese pooch $12 million, which a judge reduced to $2 million. Most of the $100,000 a year set aside for dog care paid for round-the-clock security to protect Trouble from harm following threats.

The New York Daily News said with Trouble's demise the trust fund goes to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, but in April a Manhattan judge rebuffed a bid by animal welfare groups to get more of Helmsley's $5 billion estate.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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