From The Malta Independent July 12, 2001
The burnt dog burns consciences
The best comment one can make on the story of the tortured dog is a quotation from Gandhi: The greatness of a nation and its
moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
We found this in an e-mail sent in by one of the
many foreign readers who continually besiege us on the bird hunting issue.
There. For many of us here, the two issues
dog torturing and bird hunting are completely separate. But for people living in a different culture out in the world, and
indeed on the completely objective level, the two issues are but two facets of the same issue.
Let us shift the focus
of the issue a bit.
Most of the reaction everywhere, including letters from abroad, has concentrated on the boy and
his immediate history. That needs to be investigated, though the current focus could seriously cause perpetual damage to the
boy, who could be brought to perceive everyone as his enemy and his antagonist.
But the boy would hardly have invented
such "pastimes" unless he somehow was exposed to them.
This is the level we must target: there is a subculture,
a whole subculture in Malta, especially in the rural areas, where animal blood sports, if that is the description, are rampant.
Whether it is dog fighting, cock fighting this goes on all the time.
People are involved grown ups and boys the
police never seem to get to know about it, nobody is arraigned and we still delude ourselves into believing that as a nation
we are becoming more animal loving by the day.
It is only in this context that a boy starts to perceive animals as
being there for cruelty, for the sadistic pleasure of seeing blood spurt, as being legal game.
But this subculture,
in turn, is resting on a wider stratum: what is hunting but cruelty to animals done in a less immediate manner at a distance,
high in the air? The daily killing of so many birds in season and out of season, the even crueller imprisonment of birds in
small cages left in the sun to attract other birds, the indiscriminate shooting that erupts any time a bird comes over the
hill is that not cruel sport too?
All the people who, justifiably, are viscerally reacting to the Siggiewi outrage,
must put the whole episode in its proper context: such behaviour is possible only within the context of a country which is
not trying to mark its progress by a better treatment of animals; only within the context of a country where for all its religious
feasts, there is next to no honouring of God's animals and the beauties of creation; only within the context of a country
where the laws say one thing and what goes on in real life is blithely carried out in the different direction.
not the boy. Blame not his family. Blame this whole subculture, which is so alive and present in most of our towns and villages.
It is a wonderful coincidence that this black episode happened just before parliament began to debate a bill regarding
animal welfare, so that this episode can serve as the backdrop to the whole discussion, as indeed it is doing. It is a pity
that some very worthwhile laws proposed in the Private Members Bill presented by Dr Sant last year were not included in the
present bill, such as outlawing the cutting off of animals' ears, the total banning of animal fights (including the onlookers
as being as guilty as the organisers) and permitting any member of the public to institute criminal charges against people
for the maltreatment of animals.
Beyond that, of course, we need more education, more education.
should not remember animals only on St Anthony's feast: why not have special masses for children with their pets? Schools
too should be encouraged to have their pet days, and the children must be actively encouraged to handle animals to handle
them well and to love them.