[FOUNTAIN]A complex relationshipFor many people, there are two types of animals ― food and pets. While people enjoy various dishes made of meat, at the same time some continuously emphasize their “love of animals.” An example of this perplexed love for animals can be found in the Nazi Third Reich, which passed a law prohibiting cruelty to animals.
The first law to protect animals recorded in history was during the reign of King Asoka of India, around 2,200 years ago. It banned offering animals as sacrifices and built animal hospitals here and there.
The worst animal protection law was introduced in the 17th century in Japan. The 5th Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa promulgated the edict in 1685. At first, the law stated that people should not dispose of animals that were seriously ill and applied only to Edo, which is now Tokyo. Two years later, the law was strengthened to punish those who hurt or abused animals such as dogs, horses and cows, and it even applied to fish, snakes and mice.
Later, cooking chicken, clams and shrimp was banned; and after 60 edicts were added, it developed into an unreasonable law that allowed a human being to be punished if he hurt any living creature.
Raising chickens was fine, but eating eggs was prohibited. A peasant was sent into exile for killing a mosquito that was biting his face. A father was executed for feeding his sick child a swallow, which was considered a cure for the child’s disease according to folk remedies. The child was also sent into exile. It is said that over 10,000 people ran away or were executed for killing a dog or a cat.
As the number of wild dogs increased, the animals were registered in order to take care of them and dog shelters were built on over 163 acres near Edo castle. The Japanese government spent 11 percent of its annual revenue on feeding dogs. The shogun said, “Let this edict continue to exist even after 100 years,” as his dying wish, but the edict was abolished 10 days after his death.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced that it will revise the animal protection law. Starting in 2007, people who mistreat and abuse animals will face harsher punishment, including a 10-fold increase in fines. The intention is to stop people from killing bears and cats for oriental medical purposes: Some people believe in folk remedies using gallbladders or cat meat.
But, given the unique zeal of Koreans, who would even eat cockroaches if it were good for their health, for envigorating remedies and food paliatives, there will be only two types of animals in this country: those either good for food or good as pets.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?