Archive for the ‘Bai, animalule!’ Category

La multi ani, Helga!

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Helga implineste astazi 12 ani. Cind a trecut atita timp? Multi ani, draga mea! Si sa fii la fel de sanatoasa ca intotdeauna! Mai multe fotografii aici si aici.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

februarie 14, 2013 at 11:57 am

Publicat în Altele, Bai, animalule!

How breeders and judges destroyed the unique Chow-Chow

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1. Introduction

In 2008 the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed (director: Jemima Harrison) [torrent it or watch online the full movie for free here; read the blog ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ here] blew up the entire dog world: in just 60 minutes it demonstrated how the breeders were destroying most of the breeds, by breeding dogs with excessive physiological features while paying no attention to behavioral issues and – which is even more outrageous – to health problems. Over the last hundred years, the breeds underwent dramatic physical and temperamental changes and these changes were detrimental to almost every breed. As a consequence,  it is not only that champion dogs who win lots of titles in dog shows (especially Crufts) are not capable anymore to do the job they were originally designed to do (hunting, tracing, protection, etc.); but also these champions are full of health problems and, by being extensively bred (or maybe better said: inbred), they pass on these problems to their offspring.  This results not only in owners’ spending huge amounts of money on vet fees, but also in breeds falling apart. To make things worse, the officialdom (breeders, judges, the Kennel Club) are simply denying what is happening, in spite of protests from dog owners, dog press representatives and veterinarian and animal welfare organizations.

The reaction to this movie was widespread and dramatic. The BBC, the RSPCA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Dog Trust, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Pedigree Petfoods (a major sponsor for the last 44 years) have since pulled out of Crufts (the biggest Kennel Club’s show) (source1; source2). The Kennel Club also took into account changing some breed standards and decided to establish health checks for Cruft entrants – but this was considered to be ‘too little too late’ (source). Finally, the Kennel Club issued a list of ‘high profile breeds’ (the concept being defined as ‘[a] breed from time to time designated by the General Committee as requiring particular monitoring by reason of visible conditions(s) which may cause health or welfare concerns’). The Chow Chow is on this list. How did we get here? This post is meant to answer this question and to warn that if nothing is done, we will lose this wonderful breed.

2. The original and the actual Chow: two different breeds?

Take a look at the two images below and try to guess which breed these dogs belong to. If you’re a dog lover, you may correctly say that the second photograph shows a typical chow-chow – but you may be puzzled regarding the first picture. It looks like a Spitz-type, so… could it be a Giant German Spitz, a Wolfspitz, a Keeshond, an Eurasier or maybe an ancestor of the Volpino Italiano? This time your answer is wrong. It’s a Chow-Chow as well – and again, a typical one. The only difference is one hundred years between the two: the first was shot in 1911; the second represents an actual Chow.


(source of the first picture; source of the second picture)

I’m already hearing you saying something like: ‘You must be joking’, or at least ‘You must be making a mistake’. So let’s try it again. Look at the couple of pictures below: don’t worry about guessing anymore, I can tell you that you’re looking at two typical Chows: the first is a champion and the image dates from 1910, while the second is a dog from our days.


(same sources of pictures as before)

It seems that the only common elements of the two very different types of Chow are the blue tongue, the straight back legs, the tail carried over back and forward-tilting ears. Everything else is different. So what happened?

3. A bit of recent history

In order to answer this question, we should take a look at this dog’s Western history. According to the American Kennel Club’s website, the Chow arrived in Europe around 1880 (other sources say 1780, as documented here), and the first speciality club was formed in the UK in 1895. The first exhibition of the breed in the USA took place in 1890. Since we know that this breed is an ancient one, and one of the few which were not designed by humans, we may confidently assume that the first Chows which landed on the European soil looked pretty much as their ancestors did two thousand years before (as the pottery figures from the Han dynasty around 200 BC show us – source). Fortunately, we have some pictures which document the way a typical Chow looked like when they arrived in the Western world.

The first standard of the breed was based on Chow VIII (first picture below), which was born in 1895. Another similar-looking dog was Blue Blood, born in 1893 (or, according to other sources, in 1892), who later became a Champion. In both pictures we can see the general characteristics of the first Chows that stepped on the European soil: the sharp, fox-like muzzle; the clear and visible oriental eyes; the thin bones; fairly long legs; and the lighter constitution of their bodies, compared to actual Chows.


[first picture above: Chow VIII (born 1895; photo from 1903; source); second picture above:  Champion Blue Blood (born 1893; source)]

However, in less than sixty years the breed underwent dramatic changes, so much so that it is hard to recognize in the picture below, depicting Chapion Astom (born in 1951), the specific traits of his ‘colonial’ ancestors; Astom had shorter legs, shorter neck, thicker bones, broader and thicker muzzle which did not resemble that of a fox anymore, wrinkled skin, smaller oriental eyes lost in the compressed face and coat in abundance.

Champion Astom (born 1951; source)

Unfortunately the development of the breed since Astom did not bring any improvement, quite the contrary. Looking to the present-day Chow-Chow, one could hardly guess that this is a Spitz breed. Indeed, from a fox-like appearance, as we can clearly see in the pictures taken at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the Chow was transformed in a ‘lion-like’, or ‘bear-like’ creature. Very tellingly, this transformation is written in the actual breed standard (updated on October 2009), which is supposed to illustrate the ideal dog of this breed and which says that the Chow is ‘leonine in appearance’ and its muzzle must be ‘moderate in length, broad from eyes to end (not pointed at end like a fox)’ (see the standard on the Kennel Club’s webpage).

4. The Chow in great people’s time

Great personalities owed and even bred Chow-Chows, and thanks to them we have good testimonies about the physical and psychical characteristics of this breed. Sigmund Freud is known not only for making his favourite chow-chow, Jo-Fi, attend all of his therapy sessions (because he thought that ‘dogs had a special sense that allows them to judge a person’s character accurately’ – source) but also for his loyalty to his dogs. After his flight from Vienna because of fear of the Nazis he went to London and there his chow was quarantined for six months. Freud, whose health was declining, visited his chow as often as he could (source). Below you can watch two pictures with Freud’s chows, both of them being shot probably in the 1930s (Freud died in September 1939); you can also watch a short video of Freud in which his Chow appears as well here. As you can easily observe, these chows looked pretty much as the first ones that came in Europe.


Sigmund Freud and some of his Chows; source of the first picture; source of the second picture

Konrad Lorenz, the founder of modern ethology and the 1973 Nobel Prize winner was also a Chow-Chow lover and breeder. In 1949, ten years after Freud’s death and two years before Champion Astom’s birth he published a wonderful book titled Man Meets Dog. It may be that an image worth one thousand words, but sometimes a few words are more telling than an image as well. If the pictures with Freud and his dogs show us how the Chow-Chow looked like in the 1930s, then Lorenz’s paragraph from Man Meets Dog represent a grieved but accurate testimony of the decade when the breed started to change dramatically:

‘As I have already intimated, it would be quite possible for breeders to compromise in the choice of physical and mental properties, and this contention has been proved by the fact that various pure breeds of dog did retain their original good character traits until they fell a prey to fashion. Nevertheless dog shows in themselves involve certain dangers, since competition between pedigree dogs at shows must automatically lead to an exaggeration of all those points which characterize a breed. If one looks at old pictures which, in the case of English dog-breeds, can be found dating back to the middle ages, and compares them with pictures of present-day representatives of the same breeds, the latter look like evil caricatures of the original strain. In the Chow, which has only become really fashionable in the course of the last twenty years, this is particularly noticeable. In about 1920, Chows were still natural dogs, closely allied to the wild form, whose pointed muzzles, obliquely set Mongolian eyes and pricked ears pointing sharply upwards lent to their faces that fascinating expression which distinguishes Greenland sledge-dogs, Samoyeds and Huskies, in short all strongly wolf-blooded dogs. Modern breeding of the Chow has led to an exaggeration of those points which gives him the appearance of a plump bear: the muzzle is wide and short almost mastiff-like, the eyes have lost their slant in the compression of the whole face, and the ears have almost disappeared in the overgrown thickness of the coat. Mentally, too, these temperamental creatures, which still bore a trace of the wild beast of prey, have become stodgy teddy bears. But not my breed of Chows.’ (Konrad Lorenz, Man Meets Dog, Routledge: London and New York, 2005, pp. 86-87)

5. Health issues

Obviously, this transformation came together with an enormous amount of health problems. The old pictures depict a very active and alert dog, while present-day Chows are rather lazy – should I say ‘lethargic’? I have seen many Chows in shows that could barely move because of their short legs, abundant coat and breathing problems (in some cases, even their capacity of mating is affected). In a commentary to the breed standard Sheila Jakeman, a well-known British breeder and judge, acknowledged the problem and declared that ‘Any Chow should be able to walk the length and breadth of any show ring easily and so prove that it is active’ (see Sheila Jakeman, ‘The Standard; why a Chow is so special’, in Janneke Leunissen-Rooseboom, Anne Russell and Bas Bosch (eds.), The World of Chows in 2001 and 2002,BB Press, p. 18; link). This strikes me dearly: if all that is needed for being declared as ‘active’ is to be able to walk for only five minutes in the show ring without any apparent difficulty, then this is rather a death sentence than an effort to solve breed’s health issues.

Interestingly enough, the same author is calling for an ‘square short backed animal’ – but if we take into account the appearance of the original Chow (which is not necessarily square, as documented in both ancient pottery and old photos), this aim that most of the breeders, if not all, are striving to accomplish is rather a fashion requirement and not a step forward in improving the quality of the breed.

Breathing problems seem to be linked to the broader and thicker muzzle covered with wrinkled skin; and the latter, together with the trend toward ever more slanting eyes, also cause eye problems, especially entropion. True, the standard was changed in 1991 in order to push breeders to produce larger eyes, but any visit to a show ring will reveal that actually there is no fundamental change in practice. And even if the incidence of wrinkles has decreased in the last years, health problems did not disappear – only those… responsible for them seem to have changed: to quote again Sheila Jakeman, ‘Humid airless days can still cause a problem if owners [?! my italics] are careless’ (p. 20).

Frightening trends, as Jakeman herself acknowledges, include an ultra short rib from front to rear, which ‘means the protective cavity is being shortened and therefore… vital organs are at risk of being compressed’. Further, ligament problems are caused by the fact that puppies are ‘very heavy at a very young age’. And we can always fear arthritis, hip dysplasia and other bone diseases, major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and stomach cancer. Finally – and this is an issue too many Chow owners are confronted with, myself included – skin problems can be extremely annoying. The unexperienced prospective Chow owner is told by breeders, various books and internet sites that the Chow-Chow is one of the few breeds that do not have the specific ‘doggy smell’ – or, at the worst, that this breed is a ‘low-odour one’. This should be true, but the rather high incidence of skin problems (ranging from abundant dandruff to hot spots) often transform the non-stinky Chow in an awfully smelling creature.

Finally, the temperament of the Chow became in time quite disturbing. To be sure, aloofness is a celebrated trait of this breed – but exaggerated shyness is not its synonym. I have met very few Chows who are not frightened or even aggressive when a stranger in the park tries to pet them. Of course, the owner is often responsible for his or her dog’s lack of proper socialization; however, no person that really knows the Chow could honestly deny the fact that this is a problem the breed in general has.

6. A personal note and some disclaimers

I am neither a specialist in dogs or Chow-Chow, nor a member of the Chow community, worldwide or in my country. My theoretical and practical experience is rather limited and it is strictly related to the dogs I love, the shows I attended to and the books I read. In 2001 I bought my first Chow, Helga (pedigree name: Arizonai Almodozok Faviola), a black female, from a rather obscure Hungarian breeder (I didn’t know at that time anything about the world of breeders, dog shows or puppy mills). I guess it is only a matter of luck that, except for some excess of dandruff (which becomes more abundant and annoying at shedding times) she never had any health problem and is still a very active dog at the age of almost 11. However, although she won some good titles in dog shows from international judges, she is not a dog fit for the champion title if we take into account the actual standard.


1911-2011: The Chow-Chow is breaking apart – source of the first picture; source of the second picture.

On the other hand my second chow, a red female named Olga (pedigree name: Chaitan Legend Chow Charisma), purchased in 2002 from the self-titled ‘best Chow-Chow Kennel in Romania’ quickly became Romanian Junior Champion. However, soon afterwards (at a very young age, before turning two) she was diagnosed with chronic arthritis, skin problems, and pododermatitis (which gave her pains when walking on concrete and made her paws bleed in winter). Add to this serious breathing problems and difficulties in movement. My intention when I purchased her was to breed her and start a kennel – but after I discovered all her health problems I decided to spay her. I tried to explain the breeder that her parents should not be bred anymore, but the only answers I received were rather sarcastic. After this experience and after finding more and more information about the way dog breeds are ‘falling apart’, as one interviewee in ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ said, I had decided not to take part in this and stopped showing. Olga died last year just before turning eight years old.

So because of my limited and subjective experience I do not claim that what I have written here is the absolute truth. I do not have monopoly over the truth, but I am personally convinced that if quick steps are not taken to save the breed, the Chow-Chow is doomed. I do not believe it is too late: I have seen once a non-pedigree Chow which to my astonishment still resembled the original ones – of course, it did not have any chance in the show ring. Maybe there are others: I would be glad, because this would be my only chance to have another Chow. I am in love with this breed – but I would never buy another dog born to Champion parents.

Finally, and most importantly, I dedicate this article to the memory of Olga. She taught me many things, and this article shows that she did not died in vain. Sleep well, my little one. The pain is gone now.

Olga (24 octombrie 2002 – 21 ianuarie 2011)

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In fotografie: Olga (Chaitan Legend Chow Charisma) (Budapesta, 2007)

Avea doar 8 ani si trei luni. Si a murit ‘multumita’ modului in care auto-intitulata ‘cea mai mare canisa de chow din Romania’ intelege sa interpreteze sintagma ‘selectia si ameliorarea rasei’. Din nefericire, a lua un ciine de la o canisa nu te scuteste de bolile genetice. (boli pe care nici medicii din trei tari – Romania, Ungaria si Franta – nu au reusit sa le vindece). Pentru ca in Romania proprietarii caniselor sint interesati in primul rind de bani.

Somn usor, fetito. Acum nu mai doare.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

ianuarie 21, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Publicat în Bai, animalule!, Photo

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Dogs don’t think, do they?

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Cam de pe la Descartes incoace, ne-am obisnuit (noi, modernii) sa credem ca un animal e o masinarie automata fara suflet. Intr-un limbaj mai apropiat epocii noastre (behaviourism, carevasazica) un animal e tot un automat, de data asta bazat pe instincte si pe mecanismul stimul-raspuns. A spus-o Pavlov: aprinzi lumina, saliveaza ciinele! Intre Descartes si Pavlov si-a itit capul si Immanuel Kant, dupa care animalele nu pot face parte din imperiul moral – nici ca subiecte, nici ca obiecte ale atitudinii etice.

Geaba a incercat un Konrad Lorenz sa explice ca, evolutionist vorbind, e aburd sa crezi ca sentimentul moral a aparut asa, nitam-nisam in om; etologia comparata exact asta arata, ca atitudinea morala este dezvoltata in grade diferite in toata lumea animala, gasindu-si punctul maxim in fiinta umana.  Geaba sustine si Stanley Coren ca inteligenta (gindirea rationala) este si ea distribuita gradual pe scara evolutiei! Inca mai continuam sa credem, cu o ciudata atitudine religioasa fata de noi insine, ca sintem foarte deosebiti de restul luimii vii. Si ca sintem superiori, bineinteles.

Iata si versiunea video completa a filmuletului de mai sus  (cititi povestea si apoi scroll down pina la video). Discutam dupa aia.

Si mai puteti vedea:

UPDATE (17 martie 2011)

Si o dovada de loialitate fata de un prieten ranit in tsunami-ul din Japonia:

Written by Andrei Stavilă

septembrie 2, 2010 at 7:18 am

Masurind inteligenta. Sau: „Ba al meu e mai destept!”

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Sa facem un experiment. Ii avem in fata ochilor pe Stefan si Mihai. Stefan este foarte controlabil, si pare sa nu aiba vointa proprie: face intotdeauna ce i se spune, nu are opinii personale, nu ia niciodata initiativa si inainte de a intreprinde ceva intreaba intotdeauna pe altii ce si cum trebuie sa faca. Mihai este exact opusul lui Stefan: este foarte vocal si incapatinat in privinta propriilor opinii, nu accepta sa i se spuna ce sa faca si foarte greu il poti determina sa actioneze daca ideea actiunii nu i-a apartinut lui insusi; mai mult, cind cineva isi exprima o parere el are intotdeauna parerea contrara, si niciodata nu poate fi convins ca greseste. Acuma, sa judecam: care dintre cei doi este mai inteligent, Stefan sau Mihai? Veti spune ca intrebarea e prost pusa: aici nu e vorba de inteligenta, ci de tempetrament. Sint de acord cu voi – insa domnul Stanley Coren are alta parere. Ok, sa acceptam ca si inteligenta este implicata in exteriorizarea comportamentala a celor doi – atunci, inca o data: cine este mai inteligent? Probabil veti fi de acord cu mine ca un om voluntar este totusi mai inteligent decit unul submisiv, deci Mihai e mai destept. Nici aici, Stanley Coren pare sa nu fie de aceeasi parere.

Cine e Stanley Coren? Un profesor de psihologie la Universitatea British Columbia. De psihologie umana mai exact – precizarea este necesara intrucit omul e cunoscut mai ales datorita cartilor sale in comportamentul si dresajul ciinilor. In 1994 a publicat volumul ‘The Intelligence of Dogs: Canine Consciousness and Capabilities’. Desi (vorba acestei recenzii) nu spune nimic nou vreunui posesor de ciini sau iubitor de animale, argumentul principal al studiului reprezinta o lovitura stiintifica data behaviorismului (este acceptat faptul ca si ciinii au ‘constiinta’ si ca ‘rationeaza inteligent’ si ‘constient’ – mai mult, ‘diferenta dintre inteligenta si constiinta omului si cea a ciinelui este una graduala’, nu de substanta). Cam asta (alaturi de o istorie a modului in care au fost privite animalele in filosofie si stiinta) ar fi partea interesanta a cartii.

Studiul insa vrea sa raspunda la alte citeva intrebari simple: cum masuram inteligenta ciinilor, care rase de ciini sint mai inteligente, si cum ar arata un clasament al celor mai inteligente rase de ciini. Rezultatul poate fi citit aici: pe primele locuri se afla in ordine descrescatoare Border Collie, Caniche si Ciobanescul German, iar pe ultimele trei locuri Buldogul Englez, Basenji si Ogarul Afgan. Conform acestui clasament, sint fericitul posesor al doi ciini stupizi: Chow-Chow-ul se afla pe onorabilul loc patru din coada, fiind o rasa doar nitel mai inteligenta decit Bulldogul Englez. Desigur, lista contine numai 80 de rase, deci multe alte rase sint lasate in afara clasamentului. Pentru comparatie, Federatia Chinologica Internationala recunoaste 339 rase de ciini ale caror standarde sint bine definite (sursa), insa in lume sint in jur de 500 de rase. In plus, corciturile nu sint luate in consideratie. Asta deja spune multe despre reprezentativitatea studiului domnului Coren.

Haideti sa vedem insa cum masoara domnia sa inteligenta ciinilor – metodologia de lucru, carevasazica (o recenzie comica aici). Autorul accepta existenta mai multor tipuri de inteligenta, bazindu-se pe teoria inteligentei multiple a lui Howard Gardner – si spune ca cel mai bun prieten al omului poseda toate tipurile de inteligenta umana in afara de una singura (cea muzicala). Mai departe, considera ca trei tipuri de inteligenta canina sint interesante pentru noi: cea adaptativa, cea bazata pe capacitatea de a se supune comenzilor si cea instinctiva (de ce nu si alte tipuri de inteligenta, de pilda capacitatea de a raspunde unor gesturi involuntare si deci ‘citirea gindurilor stapinului’, precum in efectul Clever Hans?). Cu toate acestea, autorul selecteaza drept subiect de studiu doar inteligenta bazata pe obedienta.

Ca atare, Coren a discutat cu diversi arbitri ai concursurilor de obedience din Canada si SUA (de ce nu si cu dresori, proprietari de ciini, crescatori??!!) si le-a adresat doua intrebari: a) de cite repetitii are nevoie un ciine dintr-o anumita rasa pentru a invata o comanda noua; b) care este probabilitatea ca respectivul ciine sa se supuna chiar de la prima comanda. Dupa cum se poate usor observa, un punctaj bazat pe aceste doua intrebari are citeva probleme foarte serioase: 1) ceea ce masoara lista este obedienta (supunerea) si nu inteligenta genetica (de exemplu, training-ul ciinilor de vinatoare se bazeaza in primul rind pe inteligenta nativa a ciinilor, pe capacitatea de a resolva probleme noi, si abia apoi pe ascultarea comenzilor – iata de ce Bloodhound-ul, desi unul dintre cei mai buni si mai isteti ciini de vinatoare, se situeaza totusi pe lista lui Coren pe locul 75 din 80); 2) lista se bazeaza exclusiv pe experienta arbitrilor de obedience, ca atare clasamentul este unul bazat pe evaluarile subiective ale acestora; 3) inteligenta unui ciine nu se rezuma la obedienta, nici macar la inteligenta genetica; socializarea, contactul cit mai des cu omul si cu situatii noi, sint elemente care contribuie decisiv la dezvoltarea inteligentei individuale – astfel, un ciine tinut toata viata in lant sau uitat intr-un tarc din spatele casei nu va avea acelasi grad de inteligenta cu cel al unui ciine obisnuit sa traiasca tot timpul impreuna cu stapinul sau; 4) in cadrul fiecarei rase exista diferente temperamentale si de inteligenta enorme – personal am doi Chow care sint la fel de diferiti precum Stefan si Mihai in exemplul de mai sus; 5) daca tot am vorbit de Stefan si Mihai si am fost de acord ca, acceptind nivelul de obedienta ca indicator al inteligentei, un om mai putin obedient este un om mai inteligent, atunci de ce nu ar fi asa si in cazul ciinilor?! – haideti sa stam strimb si sa judecam drept: care ciine este mai inteligent: cel care iti aduce de o suta de ori batul daca tu ai chef sa il arunci de o suta de ori, sau cel care, dupa ce ti-l aduce o data sau de doua ori, refuza sa o mai faca, uitindu-se la tine cu o figura care spune: ‘M-am saturat, altceva mai distractiv n-ai gasit?’ Personal, cred ca mai inteligent este ultimul ciine. Si daca am dreptate, atunci lista inteligentei propusa de domnul Coren trebuie pur si simplu inversata: Ogarul Afgan devine cel mai inteligent ciine, iar Border Collie cel mai stupid.

Ultima remarca din paragraful anterior arata cit de absurda devine masurarea inteligentei ciinilor prin referinta la gradul de supunere. Daca Stanley Coren si-ar fi numit lista drept ‘lista raselor de ciini din punctul de vedere al gradului de obedienta’, sau ‘lista raselor de ciini din perspectiva capacitatii lor de a fi dresati’, sau chiar ‘lista raselor de ciini in functie de temperamentul lor’, atunci as fi gasit drept interesanta o asemenea categorisire. Asa insa, prezentata drept ‘lista a inteligentei’, un asemenea mod de ordonare este nu numai inutilizabil, dar si periculos. Orice om mai putin invatat sa gindeasca de unul singur se va uita pe aceasta lista si va afla ca are un ciine idiot – ceea ce poate avea consecinte grave in primul rind pentru bietul ciine. In fapt – si sublinierea acestei idei este scopul postului de fata – probabilitatea de a avea un ciine inteligent daca iti iei un Border Collie este extrem de mare. Dar exact la fel de mare este probabilitatea de a avea un ciine inteligent daca iti iei un Ogar Afgan.

Nu in ultimul rind, totul depinde de interactiunea dintre om si ciinele sau. Asa cum am mai spus, cu cit interactiunea este mai mare, cu atit inteligenta ciinelui se va dezvolta mai mult, indiferent ca vorbim de un Border Collie sau de un Ogar Afgan. Ca atare, sa nu va mirati daca, trecind prin parcul din spatele blocului intr-o seara, veti vedea un Ogar Afgan care va va uimi prin inteligenta sa, iar putin mai departe un Border Collie idiot.

The Neverending Story: Our Treatment of Animals

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(copyright Mark Cox; source)

I am not hypocrite. I do not hold that it is ok to kill pigs for food, but it is not ok to kill dogs or dolphins with the same aim. “Superior” flesh-eating animals (humans included) always kill in order to feed themselves. This is nature’s food chain. Moreover, what we eat is determined by nature in case of non-human animals, and by culture in case of humans. So probably an Indian is equally outraged by the thought that I eat cow, as I am outraged by the idea that Chinese people eat dogs.

The problem is not so much the fact that we kill for food – the problem is rather what we eat and how we treat those animals before eating them. I hold it is immoral to kill animals from endangered species for food; and it is immoral to treat animals with cruelty before or in the course of killing them. Moreover, to mistreat and kill animals just for fun (as toreros do in Spanish bullfighting) reveals (at least for me) something very ugly about human being as such.

But toreros are not the only mean exponents of human nature. There are also the inhabitants from the Faroe Islands. They kill every year hundreds of whales and dolphins, and they really seem to find a lot of fun in this show. Indeed, everything looks like a popular festival. What kind of festival? You can read the story and watch some pictures (don’t look if your heart is weak!) here. You can find out more about the history of whaling in the Faroe Islands here. And the proof that they also kill dolphins is to be found here.

Of course, they defend their practice by saying that this is their tradition. But tradition alone, tradition in itself can never be a good argument. The human being must adapt itself and change its habits, if these habits have disastrous physical and moral consequences. But probably I’m too naïve.

[By the way: aren’t whales and dolphins endangered species?]

Written by Andrei Stavilă

noiembrie 17, 2008 at 9:14 pm

What dog are you?

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Just click this link, then click „game” (on the left side of the screen) and answer the questions! Strange enough, I seem to be a Saluki… If you take the test, please don’t forget to write here what dog are you!


Source: here

Written by Andrei Stavilă

noiembrie 14, 2008 at 1:53 am

Publicat în Bai, animalule!

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Dogs as Heroes: Nero, the Survivor

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2008, Romania, Tibeni village. The flood destroys everything. Nero, a German Sheperd, fights for his life. He stayed for 4 hours stuck to the wooden fence. Finally, he was saved. Watch the movie here. Read his story in Romanian here.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

noiembrie 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Rousseau and Bentham on animal rights

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„By this means, an end can also be made to the ancient disputes regarding the participation of animals in the natural law. For it is clear that, lacking intelligence and liberty, they cannot recognize this law; but since they share to some extent in our nature by virtue of the sentient quality with which they are endowed, one will judge that they should also participate in natural right, and that man is subject to sme sort of duties toward them. It seems, in effect, that if I am obliged not to do any harm to my fellow man, it is less because he is a rational being than because he is a sentient being: a quality that, since it is common to both animals and men, sjhould at least give the former the right not to be needlessy mistreated by the latter” [Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Discourse on the Origin of Inequality]

„Other animals, which, on account of their interests having been neglected by the insensibility of the ancient jurists, stand degraded into the class of things. … The day has been, I grieve it to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated … upon the same footing as … animals are still. The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps, the faculty for discourse?…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes…” [Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832), Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation]

Va ordon: treceti Dambovita, ucideti ciinii!

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Un eveniment tagic a avut loc la Constanta. O haita de ciini maidanezi a ucis o fetita de sase ani. Ce poti spune in fata unui asemenea eveniment cutremurator? Sa ceri omorirea urgenta a maidanezilor? Sa acuzi parintii de tratament neglijent? Sa injuri autoritatile? Si dupa ce faci toate astea, te simti mai bine?

Acest eveniment nu ar fi avut loc daca toti cinii din Romania ar fi fost adunati de pe strazi, asa cum tot cer eu cel putin de pe vremea cind scriam la „Lumea ieseanului” – adica de prin 2004. Si daca toti ciinii erau castrati, iar cei bolnavi, batrini sau agresivi – eutanasiati. Dar asta nu s-a intimplat.

Din pacate, pentru aceasta greseala administrativa a statului roman (stat roman care este condus de cei pe care romanii i-au votat in mod democratic), cel putin doi prieteni, George si Manu, considera ca singurii vinovati sint ciinii. Si – amindoi – spun ca trebuie sa ne obisnuim cu ideea ca pamintul e al nostru, deci facem ce vrem cu el si cu animalele inferioare noua – punct. Imi pare rau ca nici unul din ei nu au avut timp sa citeasca fragmentul din Milan Kundera pe care l-am postat aici cu doar citeva zile in urma.

Poate ca au dreptate. Ei se pricep mai bine, stiu multe lucruri despre stiinta, respectiv Dumnezeu. Spre deosebire de ei, eu nu prea am adevaruri absolute, iar memoria mea proasta ma face sa uit tot ce citesc. Si stiu ca de cele mai multe ori sint suspus erorii – mai mult, gresesc de-a binelea (asa cum fac acum, pentru ca se prea poate ca prietenii mei sa se supere pe mine, si atunci imi pierd doi oameni dragi din cauza gurii mele bogate). O singura tristete am: nu i-am citit pe prietenii mei reactionind in acelasi fel, si nu l-am auzit pe George spunind ca-i este rusine, si nu i-am auzit pe nici unul aratindu-se indignati despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Si as putea sa mai pun o mie de legaturi. Dar ma opresc aici.

Ma intreb de ce prietenii mei (sper sa nu se supere ca ii numesc asa, dar sincer amindoi mi-au devenit dragi, chiar daca pe unul din ei nu l-am intilnit fata in fata), de cind si-au publicat blogurile, nu au postat nimic despre link-urile de mai sus? De ce faptul ca o mama isi omoara copilul, ca un tata isi violeaza fetita, ca o bunica se arunca de la etajul noua al uni bloc legata de nepot nu stirnesc aceeasi indignare? Poate ca avea dreptate Milan Kundera: cu semenii nostri e usor sa ne purtam respectuos, pentru ca avem ceva de cistigat – sau, daca ii vorbim de rau, am avea ceva de pierdut. As vrea sa citesc pe blogurile prietenilor mei ca cer aceeasi pedeapsa pentru criminali, asa cum au cerut si pentru maidanezi.

Dar probabil, pace Kundera, e mai usor sa ne varsam nervii pe porumbei, sau pe ciini. O fetita violata si apoi ucisa intr-un oras mare din Romania e un fapt neinteresant. Un copil aruncat de la etajul doi al blocului de o bona romanca in Italia (pe motiv ca plingea), nu e o stire. Dar o fetita omorita de ciini – in aceeasi saptamina – este o stire. Pentru ca pe ciini ii putem acuza – oricum nu au ce sa ne faca.

Ma gindesc la fetita ucisa de ciini. Si la maidanezul de pe strada mea, batrin de abia mai putea misca, pe care insa toti copii de la blocurile din jur il hraneau de cind se stiau si ei, il ingrijeau – si care a fost ucis de un hingher cu o piatra in cap, sub vazul copiilor iesiti la joaca. Si copiii, si ciinii, sint vitime nevinovate ale noastre – ale maturilor care, – nu-i asa, George? – stapinim planeta. Ale maturilor care – nu-i asa, Manu? – sint ticalosi atunci cind folosesc darwinismul pentru a comite un genocid, dar nu sint ticalosi atunci cind folosesc aceeasi justificare pentru cruzimea fata de animale, sau pentru uciderea lor fara scop.

Ce pot sa spun? Sper sa nu se supere prietenii mei pe mine. Si asa sint al naibii de trist. La un moment dat, acum citeva zile, i-am zis Romaniei sa se duca dracului. Acum as spune asta omenirii intregi. Da, chiar meritam sa ne ducem dracului. Apropo, cititi cartea laureatului premiului Nobel pentru MEDICINA si FIZIOLOGIE, Konrad Lorenz. Se numeste „Cele opt pacate capitale ale omenirii civilizate”. E tradusa si in romana (si v-as mai ruga sa cititi, de acelasi autor, „Asa a descoperit omul ciinele” – e tradusa la Polirom). Astia sintem noi, George – specia care stapinim pamintul, fie ca vrem fie ca nu, si ca atare purtem face „ce vrea muschiul nostru” cu el. Din fericire, n-o sa mai facem asta prea mult. Lorenz m-a convins.

Pina atunci, va ordon: ucideti ciinii! Si vom trai in sfirsit adevaratul Rai pe pamint.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

aprilie 15, 2008 at 12:39 am