[VIEWPOINT]For a humane society

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[VIEWPOINT]For a humane society

Saturday morning, I was watching a video of the movie "No Blood, No Tears," a Korean film that features dog-fighting as a subplot. Partway through the film, I heard terrible sounds coming from outside -- the screeching of an animal obviously in terrible pain, a woman wailing, a man banging a stick and shouting.

I ran outside to see my neighbor's large white dog with a small dog in its teeth, shaking the lifeless body. The small dog's owner was crying. My neighbor, dressed only in his boxer shorts, was swinging a large stick, trying to get his dog to let go of the dead terrier, but the dog ran off.

Now, I've seen this dog over the past few months, often outside, tied to a post by a short length of rope, whimpering from neglect or exposure. I've petted it and occasionally fed it a little. There are no bad dogs. For a dog to act so anti-socially, it needs to be trained or abused. The white dog's skin looked bad, possibly scarred, possibly from fighting. I didn't want to know. To my shame, I never confronted the owner.

If only this were an isolated incident. How many times have I seen dogs tied to posts on ropes so short the dog could barely lie down, and with no water or food? How many young women do I know who bought puppies because they looked cute, only to spoil them, not train them, get mad when the puppies misbehaved, then "lose" them when they got older and un-cute? Ajumma cutting the tails off of cats to appease their outdated superstitions? Middle-aged men who think horribly torturing a dog before eating it will give them sexual stamina? Pony up the $10 for some Viagra already! If only all these things were isolated incidents ... but they are not.

In Korea, animal cruelty is endemic. The government has laws but they are rarely enforced. I've helped in animal shelters in the United States, so I am well aware that animal cruelty is hardly unique to Korea. The question is one of scope and attitudes. There are auto accidents in all countries, too; but there are a lot more here.

These are not idle, bleeding-heart complaints. A society that practices such cruelty and neglect on its animals is a society that also practices cruelty on people. When life is casually disregarded, is it any wonder violence is so endemic? Parents beating children. Teachers beating students. Men beating women. Seniors beating juniors.

The JoongAng Daily recently ran two stories about military abuse in the name of toughening up soldiers. A friend's father served in such a unit and ultimately committed suicide from depression. Does such harshness work? Last I checked, the coddled, soft U.S. military was the dominant force in the world.

The government must aggressively enforce its animal humane laws. If that sounds like a trivial way to spend much-needed resources, you're missing the point. It's important precisely because if a government and society show that the life of a simple animal is important and needs to be respected, human life will be respected more.



The writer is a JoongAng Daily copy editor.

by Mark Russell

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