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The Bali dog-meat trade: questioning our own habits

  • Written by  Elisa Allen
  • Published in Opinions
A stray dog on near Sanur Beach, Bali A stray dog on near Sanur Beach, Bali Wari D
21 Jun
As reports of tourists being fed dog meat in Bali surface, Elisa Allen, director of PETA UK, asks if we need to look closer to home before directing our ire abroad?

Elisa Allen is director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of the UK’s largest animal-protection organisations. She has a master’s degree in public advocacy and activism, has written dozens of articles on animal rights, and spearheads PETA’s high-profile campaigns and media work.

Who among us isn’t disgusted by recent reports that dog meat is being sold to unsuspecting tourists in Bali? Eyewitnesses from Animals Australia obtained footage showing panicked dogs yelping and writhing in tight nooses before their flesh is flame-roasted – it’s enough to give you nightmares.

The thought of killing, cooking, dismembering and eating dogs is abhorrent to most of us because we know them – they’re our family members and often our best friends. We can imagine their fear when they’re shot, poisoned or confined to cages with other dogs, unable to move even an inch, and the agony that follows when they’re bludgeoned and when they see others being treated similarly around them before finally being turned into pieces of meat for someone’s fleeting pleasure. But, logically, ‘there’s no difference between a dog roast and a hog roast when we know all animals feel fear and pain.’

Logically, there’s no difference between a dog roast and a hog roast when we know all animals feel fear and pain

And no one need go to Bali to see cruelty to animals. Right here at home lambs, chickens and pigs are killed as we wilfully turn a blind eye to the fact that they are no different from the dogs we cry for. Pigs, for example, are fiercely loyal and have been known to wake up and alert their sleeping guardians to house fires. Cows figure out how to unlock gates with their tongues so they can run into the pasture to play. And a study in 2011 even suggested that chickens were emotionally sensitive enough that they ‘felt empathetic pain’ when other birds were in distress. Can we really justify killing these emotional, sensitive individuals for our pleasure?

Animals raised in Britain for our plates are suffering as you read these words. Investigation after investigation into a number of British farms reveals the same thing – sick, miserable and dying animals confined to windowless sheds and treated like inanimate objects, not living beings deserving of care. Pigs’ tails are docked, and chickens’ beaks are cut short, both without the use of anaesthetics. Turkeys are bred to grow so large, so quickly, that many collapse in agonising pain, unable to support their own weight. And a large number of the intelligent, sensitive animals raised for their flesh will never get to feel the sunshine on their backs, root in the soil or do anything that makes their lives worth living.

Battery hens in the UK (Image: Ideya)Battery hens in the UK (Image: Ideya)

The industry tries to placate us with words like ‘humane slaughter’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one), but I think by now most of us know that a slaughterhouse is a place of blood and offal, struggles and screams hidden from view. In these ‘houses of horror’, chickens are shackled by their legs and hung upside down, then plunged into an electric water bath that’s meant to stun them but isn’t always effective, meaning that some birds regain consciousness as their throats are slit and they bleed to death. Many cows, pigs and sheep, too, remain conscious – kicking and wailing – as they’re skinned and dismembered. As with the photos of Bali’s dog-meat trade, when watching footage taken inside these places, you can almost smell the animals’ fear.

Pointing a finger at other cultures is easy, but what does it achieve, other than giving us a false sense of moral superiority?

Of course I’m sickened by the images of dogs desperately trying to escape their fate in Bali, but I’ve seen that panic in others’ eyes before: it’s the same look you see on the face of anyone who knows they’re about to die, because we all value our lives, and none of us – human, dog, pig or chicken – wants to die a terrible death.

Pointing a finger at other cultures is easy, but what does it achieve, other than giving us a false sense of moral superiority? Being honest enough to question our own cruel habits – now that takes strength of character. If you believe it’s cruel to kill and cook dogs, then stand by your convictions, practise what you preach and don’t order any other animals to be killed and cooked for your dinner tonight either.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the positions of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) or Geographical.

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