On Animal Cruelty and the Virtues of Keeping My Mouth Shut

My neighbours a few houses down seem like nice enough people. We greet each other pleasantly from time to time, and I remain grateful for the time, back when I was originally house-hunting in the neighbourhood, that they let me step inside their house and use their landline to call up the owner of the house that I would eventually rent. They also run a tailoring business out of their house, and I have to assume they did a good job of fixing the hole in my jean pocket, although I haven’t actually worn the jeans since I got them back.

Unfortunately, my neighbours also have two medium-sized dogs that they keep confined in very cramped cages, not much larger than their bodies. I don’t think this is from simple lack of space – their house, while not lavish, looks reasonably roomy and comfortable. But the dogs probably aren’t pets in the way that westerners would understand; they’re treated more as living burglar alarms, which is a fairly common practice here. I do hear the dogs bark from time to time, as you probably would if you had to spend your life inside a small cage, but the noise isn’t really much of an issue – mostly I just feel bad every time I pass by the house and witness their deplorable living conditions. (I won’t be posting a photo here, both because I’d rather make a boring post than a painfully sad one, and also because I don’t want to make my otherwise pleasant neighbours wonder what kind of malfeasance I’m involved in.)

As far as I can tell, the conventional thinking in the Philippines is that as long as you’re feeding an animal, keeping it clean, and not actively beating the shit out of it, you cannot be said to be abusing it. And so, many dogs spend literally their entire lives in small cages or tied up on painfully short leashes. My heart aches for such beautiful, intelligent, kind-hearted animals being confined in such a cramped space that they can barely move around, but I’m not sure my opinion matters very much.

I remember my very pretty neighbour in Davao City, who I had quite a thing for until the day that she acquired a tiny little puppy and immediately leashed it to a chair in her rather spacious yard. Months after I had left Davao City, I visited the old neighbourhood and saw that the puppy had grown quite large, and was still attached to the chair with perhaps a couple of feet of room to move around. My infatuation now fully dissipated, I narrowly avoided sharing some very rude words with my one-time crush.

In a way, I have to respect the consistency of this approach: when so many westerners (and, increasingly, middle- and upper-class Filipinos) want to treat domestic animals like spoiled children, but couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the daily cruelties of the industrial agriculture that brings them the cheap meat they demand, there is something to be admired in simply assigning all animals the same low level of rights. If you believe that a pig and a dog are worthy of the same degree of respect (which I think they might be), then I guess treating them both equally poorly is the second best thing to treating them both equally well. I can’t be sure  seeing spoiled little Paris Hilton dogs being carried around by the privileged few counts as progress, especially in a country where there remains so much terrible human suffering.

So basically, I am weighed down with mixed and contradictory feelings, and have nothing valid to contribute to this discussion. And besides, as I alluded to originally in the title of this post, I’m a foreigner, this isn’t my country, and I should shut the hell up. So yeah.

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