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Friday 20 June 2014

China: The Barbarity Of Old Wives Tales

Animal cruelty in any form is abhorrent; and when it is regularly carried out on a large-scale and with the implicit permission of a country's national government, then it should be publicly highlighted and condemned by any right-thinking person, especially if we consider ourselves to have even a shred of human decency or feeling for our fellow creatures.
The actual morality of meat eating aside, be that the flesh of beast, fish or fowl, as the most advanced predatory animal on the planet, we have the experience and the means to ensure that any and all creatures that we choose to eat should meet their end in the most efficiently painless way possible, so that they suffer the minimum amount of suffering and pain, as they make their way to the dinner table.
In most civilised countries, the vast majority of food animals are bred, raised and culled in the most humane way possible, with severe penalties levied against those individuals or businesses that fail to meet the required high standards of care, which is as it should be in a modern industrialised humane society. Clearly there will always be exceptions to be made, where certain religious lobbyists insist that their individual faiths require the slaughtering of conscious animals, as opposed to the norm of pre-stunning creatures prior to their deaths. Mercifully though, more and more countries are beginning to insist that animal welfare should always take precedence over religious dogma; and have strengthened their own national legislation in order to ensure that animals do not suffer simply because of often questionable theological arguments.
I make no apologies for featuring some highly distressing images as part of this particular blog post. As an animal lover generally and as a former dog owner specifically, I too find them distressing, upsetting and uncomfortable to look at, but generally take the view that not showing them, or avoiding the subject entirely does nothing to help highlight the inhumanity, barbarity and sheer foolishness that is clearly evident within many so-called modern Asian societies, China, Vietnam and Korea included. Their general animal husbandry standards aside, this post deals particularly with their national practice of killing and eating animals that most of the rest of the civilised world regard as pets or companions, as opposed to the more usual traditional food animals such as cows, pigs, sheep, etc, which are bred, raised and culled for that specific purpose, to feed the human population.
Supporters and defenders of traditional dog meat festivals, such as that which is held in Yulin in China would argue that the flesh of dogs and cats represent a legitimate human food source, one that has been exploited and enjoyed for hundreds of years, as "fragrant meat", a source of nourishment that helps sustain people through the long hard months of autumn and winter; and that offers a range of health benefits to the consumer that no other meat can provide. Of course there is absolutely no scientific proof whatsoever to support these spurious claims, as is the case with rhino horn, tiger parts, bear bile, or any of the other multitude of animal parts that are claimed to offer some sort of medicinal benefits to an increasingly gullible Chinese population. Ultimately though, virtually all such natural cures are simply a means to deprive a largely uneducated public of their hard earned money, ignoring the obvious fact that often such tainted meats, skins, bones, offal, etc. are far more likely to cause illness and disease, rather than cure it. Bearing in mind that dogs especially can carry and cause Cholera, Trichinellosis and Rabies, the fact that thousands of people in Asia would deliberately risk their personal health purely to maintain a purported cultural tradition is staggering, given that it is the responsibility of modern governments to educate their native populations, rather than allow people to put their health at risk.
Obviously, if the people of China, Vietnam, or Korea want to put their personal health at risk, if they want to decimate their own native animal populations, or if they want to guarantee the antipathy and resentment of large swathes of the international community, then they are perfectly at liberty to do so. It is their country, their personal health, their cats and their dogs and their national reputations to waste, as they choose! But let us be clear here, cats and dogs are not the same as traditional food animals, such as the sheep, pigs, cattle, chickens, etc that virtually every country in the world raises to feed their native populations. For thousands of years humans have bred, raised and exploited food animals for their own benefit; and for the most part that has not included cats and dogs, which have only ever shared our towns and cities as guards, pest-controllers, companions and pets, being used as a food source only in the direst of circumstances such as famine and/or war. Typically, we do not share our living spaces with pigs, chickens, sheep or cows, but neither do we require them to protect our homes or our valuable livestock, or indeed to limit rodent populations, as we have dogs and cats to undertake those particular roles. Generally we do not rely on pigs, cows, sheep or chickens to offer us personal companionship, ostensibly because they lack the intelligence and the ability to fulfil that role, whereas cats and dogs do not.
One could more easily sympathise with the culinary practices of China, Korea and Vietnam, were those countries still afflicted by widespread famine and poverty, although that is clearly not the case any longer. China specifically is only too happy to tell the world how wealthy and successful it has become in the past few decades, yet continues to allow its citizens to act as though they exist in abject poverty, indulging in practices that are hundreds of years out of date. Similarly Korea is one of the world's leading economies and yet tens of thousands of its citizens continue to act as though they're struggling to feed themselves. So if money, or wealth is not the main reason for these countries continuing to practice these largely unpleasant culinary traditions; and there is no evidence to support the idea that dog and cat meat provides any sort of obvious health benefits to the consumer, where does that leave the argument?
Perhaps the truth of the matter lies in the means and the methods of the dog meat trade that continues to exist in these three wealthy Asian neighbours. Although a significant number of dogs and cats are specially bred for the purpose, often in the most horrendous circumstances; and afflicted by the most dreadful diseases, there is a lot of supporting evidence that homeless street dogs from throughout Asia are captured and transported to dog meat centres such as Yulin, where they meet the most grisly ends possible. Having been transported in the most cruel conditions, large numbers die from asphyxiation or dehydration enroute, or suffer numerous broken bones such are the cramped conditions that they're held in.
Upon arriving at the meat markets, it appears that in most cases the cages containing the living and dead animals are unloaded and then weighed, so that a price can be agreed for the cargo between the dealers who acquire and transport the dogs; and the butchers who want to buy them for slaughter. Those that are still alive are then unloaded from their cages and have their legs and muzzles bound, often so they can be displayed for sale, or to make them easier to handle for the slaughter men.
Studying some of the pictures taken at the meat markets would suggest that different traders/ butchers / slaughter men have different techniques for handling the dogs. In one disturbing picture, it appears that a defenceless dog is tied to a post before being beaten to death by men wielding pipes or clubs, with the intention of making the dog bleed internally, which according to some sources makes the dog's meat more tender and succulent. In another, a man ties a small dog in a sack, to restrict its mobility, before beating it to death on the floor, presumably for exactly the same reason. Other dogs are raised and suspended by their necks using a pole, which helps keep the dog safe and compliant, whereas others are held down on the floor by the butchers foot, before having its throat cut. There is no evidence of the dogs being pre-stunned, except of course when it happens accidentally whilst they're being deliberately beaten to death. Other dogs are less fortunate again and have to experience being boiled alive, or beaten to death in a machine designed to remove their fur. The boiling in water is believed to be a method for not only helping to remove the dogs coat, reducing the chance of disease, but also to bloat the dogs bodies, which are generally thin due to their not having been fed on a regular basis. The few pictures contained within this blog post certainly doesn't do justice to the horrifying practices that go on in the Yulin dog meat market, but provide more than enough evidence that for some dealers, butchers and slaughter men involved in the trade, the act of killing is a sick kind of reward in its own right.
Depending on which source you choose to believe anything from 10,000 to 100,000 dogs and cats are killed every single year for this gruesome trade, with a reported 10,000 killed in Yulin alone. Not only are most slaughtered in the most criminally cruel way, but the fact that no attempt is made to pre-stun the animals prior to their being placed in boiling hot water, a fur removing machine, or before having their throats cut, just makes the horrifying spectacle of it all more brutal, more inhumane and more barbaric. But then, maybe that's part of the reason why such atrocities continue to be celebrated in Asia, that such barbarity places into a part of the Asian psyche' that other more civilised countries cannot comprehend.
The Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans can argue as much as they like about the cultural and supposed health benefits of eating cats and dogs, but ultimately they are myths based on old wives tales, told in a time when food, education, commonsense and human decency were to be found in equally limited amounts. These three Asian giants might choose to believe that they have cultural histories that are worth celebrating, although if their treatment of other sentient living creatures is anything to go by in Yulin, celebrating the unspeakably cruel is nothing much to brag about. 

Wednesday 11 June 2014

A Contemptible Congress:

Surely there cannot be that many people in the UK who continue to have a respectful regard for those six hundred and odd men and women who currently occupy our national legislature, on the basis of representing the everyday interests of the millions of British voters who elect them to that purportedly august office.
Declining electoral participation by the people of Britain is perhaps the most telling indictment of the mutual contempt seemingly felt by those who govern and those who agree to be governed, between the executive and society, between MP's and their constituents. Hardly a day goes by without some scandal, outrage, or illegal action occurring, which helps further widen the divide between the elected representative and those who agree to be represented.
Whether it's stealing from the public purse, ignoring voter's concerns, retreating on electoral promises, introducing previously undeclared ideological policies, or even blatantly reneging on vital socio-economic issues, the yawning disconnect between the two sides seems to threatens to tear our society apart, bringing an end to hundreds of years of national unity.
Throw into the mix a determination by successive governments, unelected advocate groups and outside influences, to forcibly introduce a whole new set of foreign cultures, beliefs and languages into Britain's main population centres; and you have a recipe for a social disaster waiting to happen, or that is even in the process of happening. Not content with demanding that such newcomers should themselves adapt to existing British cultural norms that have taken hundreds of years to cement, instead our national regulators insist that native Briton's, those representing the vast majority of the civil population, should accept wholesale changes to their society, to their schools, to their communities, to their country. Is it any wonder then that the vast majority of Briton's have become disenchanted, disenfranchised and disillusioned with the current form of government, one that no longer seems to represent them, the indigenous peoples of these islands?
Doubtless there are many people in Britain who believe that our Parliamentary system, by virtue of its reputation as the highest court in the land, automatically attracts the brightest and the best that our country has to offer in terms of personnel and innate human abilities. However, any number of scandals over the past few years, involving members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords would seem to have put paid to any such suggestion, as typically the brightest and the best would not usually include crooks, persistent sex-pests and other dishonourable members, as seems to be the case today. Although the writer's own disdain for and disgust with our current Parliament has been previously expressed on this blog, it is always worth reiterating the point that for the most part, the "honourable" members of both chambers are in reality, nothing of the sort and simply represent the very worst failures, charlatans and placemen that the various political parties have managed to muster, hiding behind the facade of what purports to be a world beating parliamentary system.
Not content with lining their own pockets at the public expense, stoking their individual egos on the public stage, the Commons might best be regarded as little more than a House of Misrepresentation, spinning and weaving established facts to best suit each political party's strategies and world weary ideologies. From Europe to the economy, from migration to education, from defence to foreign affairs, Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats all attempt to skew the truth to best suit their own political ends, with little regard for how their own declared opinions might actually affect the real truth of the matter.
Just how have we managed to reach such a sorry state of affairs that a national government of our country has to actively think about promoting the idea of "Britishness"  being taught in British schools; or that a British Prime Minister has to go "cap in hand", to other European leaders, to plead for our basic rights to be restored over areas of national competency, including those relating to border controls, trade and welfare? Just why is any single percentage of our national laws dictated to us by Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Spanish representatives? What sort of country have we become when assorted foreign criminals, including paedophiles, rapists, robbers, murderers, traffickers, smugglers, terrorists, etc. can find a secure haven within our national borders, safe in the knowledge that their human rights will always be put above those of the entire British population?
How proud and sovereign a nation are we that we allow disparate company CEO's, foreign diplomats, overseas Presidents and Prime Ministers to purposefully dictate our nations domestic policies and commercial activities, from signing international trade deals, to permitting all and sundry free and unfettered access to our towns and cities? How is it that we have essentially handed our world standing to unelected and anonymous politicians from the likes of Luxembourg, Portugal and Belgium, without a by your leave from the British people? Who exactly gave Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown permission to hand away our historic rights to determine who comes into our country and who doesn't, who sets the laws that we all live by, who we can and can't trade with, what cultures we choose to value, what languages we want to hear and speak? Instead of being law-makers, our elected political representatives have become nation-breakers, the destroyers of British history, culture and commonality.
Today's Labour Party meekly claims to be the inheritors of the working class movement that lead to its first creation, yet in reality is nothing of the sort. Run by millionaire champagne socialists, who have little in common with the working classes, save for the fact that they are both members of the human race, modern day Labour is simply the reverse of the Conservative coin, the country being equally damned no matter which way it happens to land after a general election. With a few odd exceptions on both sides of the House, in the main, the Commons, the mother of all parliaments, seems to be inhabited by row upon row of professional political graduates, who've never held down a proper job outside of Westminster, second-rate newspaper hacks, failed and highly questionable business people, unsuccessful advocates, as well as the heirs of previous parliamentary incumbents, who believe that appearing to serve the public as an MP was actually far easier than having to work for a living.  
The truth of the matter is that there's no point in blaming other European leaders for Britain's present political predicament, nor indeed President Obama, or any other world leader who has expressed a view on the issue of our continued EU membership. Ultimately they will express an opinion that reflects the best interests of their own nations, Obama for America, Merkel for Germany, Hollande for France, etc. etc. The only people who can bear any sort of legitimate responsibility for the predicament that Britain now finds itself in over Europe, over migration, over the economy, over national defence, over energy; and the multitude of other vital issues that affects us all on a daily basis, is ourselves, the great British electorate.
We are partially responsible for the mess that our country is in, because for far too long we have chosen to accept the barefaced lies, the political spin, the gross misrepresentations being offered to us by the three legacy parties. We're the ones who have allowed the unprincipled braggarts and charlatans of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties to guide our nation's fortunes, or perhaps more correctly its misfortune, over the past half century, so why should any of us be surprised that they've made such a complete and utter hash of it?
Just how many millions of British voters will simply turn up at the local polling station to cast their ballot for the Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem candidate without having the slightest clue what that individual candidate stands for, if indeed they stand for anything at all? How many millions of people vote for the three legacy parties purely on the basis of one or two flagship policies, without considering the remainder of the party's manifesto, the part where the pain resides. Remember "No More Top Down Reorganisation of the NHS", "Education, Education, Education", the "Knowledge Society", "Immigration Down To The Tens of Thousands", or even the much promised "Referendum on Europe"? Just a selection of high profile manifesto promises that have not only served to damage the country as a whole, but that have remained largely undelivered; and yet political policies nonetheless that millions of people doubtless voted for!
Of course in some ways it would be nice to believe that the multiple failures of policy visited on the British people over the past half century or so, were entirely the result of sheer incompetence on the part of the various Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat administrations; and to a lesser degree they probably were. However, for the most part, one can only ever be drawn to the conclusion that most of the pain  and destruction inflicted on Britain and its people, be that in terms of deindustrialisation, civil and social division, privatisation of public utilities, the de-skilling of the national workforce, community breakdown, devolution of Scotland, Ireland & Wales, deferment of sovereignty to the European Union and mass immigration, have not actually been undertaken through a lack of knowledge on the part of our elected representatives, but with their full recognition of the social and economic damage that they would ultimately cause not only to the country but also to its inhabitants.
Although Margaret Thatcher's government undoubtedly killed the British disease of radical unionism, this was only really achieved by killing the patient, in the form of Britain's traditional heavy industries. As a result hundreds of thousands of highly skilled workers were made redundant, the country lost its invaluable manufacturing base; and thousands of communities were left devastated and devoid of meaningful employment. Thatcher's political and economic strategy, to undermine and then destroy the troublesome Trade Union movement in Britain was no accident, but was fundamentally a war for control of the country, one in which the thousands of unemployed workers and hundreds of devastated communities were simply regarded as collateral damage.
It is also now widely accepted that Edward Heath and his fellow Conservative ministers, along with their civil servants, knew full well that Britain's entrance into what was then the European Economic Community in 1973, was never just about trade per se, but was always intended to allow for the later development of a fully federalised European super state, a proposal that was never made plain to the British people themselves. Had it been so, then in all likelihood the EEC referendum of 1975, which was sold to the British people as a renegotiated settlement, which protected Britain's vital national interests, would never have been given a mandate to continue. It is to the eternal shame of both Harold Wilson and Edward Heath that they both deliberately lied to the British public, such was their own determination to create a vain political legacy, which has only now started to unravel.
Sadly, the lies and deceit continue to be repeated over our continued membership of the European Union, with politician's of all stripes choosing to put their own beliefs, their own personal opinions, before those of the people that they're elected to represent. Whether it's Nick Clegg with his now largely discredited three million jobs claim, or David Cameron with his pledge to renegotiate our membership, before holding an In/Out referendum in 2017, promises and pledges that hold little weight with a significant portion of the British population.
For their part, Labour, the party founded by the Trade Union movement to represent the working classes, continue to cling to the myth that our membership of the European Union, with its mass migration, wage compression, declining living standards, housing shortages, limited school places, alien languages and cultures, along with rationed healthcare, are all a price worth paying to create an enriched multicultural British society for the 21st century.
They too are happy to scaremonger about the dangers of Britain leaving the European Union, warning the UK population about much needed jobs being lost, of foreign investment being cut, of Britain becoming isolated from both its continental neighbours and the wider international community. All stuff and nonsense of course as many independent reports have found. Britain with its huge capacity for consumer goods, with its vast networks of business and diplomatic contacts, with its membership of most international trade bodies, with its vibrant economy, its impressive financial muscle, its membership of the Commonwealth and pre-existing international ties would undoubtedly thrive outside of the suffocating restrictions of the European Union. Unfortunately, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats are not risk takers, or visionaries, but for the most part are small men with small ideas and absolutely no principles when it comes to protecting Britain's best interests. They would much rather hide behind the skirts of the European Union than take the risk of leading their independent country out into the bigger international community.
When considering our current parliament, it is perhaps easy to draw some sort of parallel with the English parliament that Oliver Cromwell found after the English Civil Wars and after the roundheads had chopped off a monarchs head to achieve parliamentary sovereignty. Cromwell was thought to have returned to London to find a parliament stuffed to the gills with self-serving representatives, whose only single intent was to maintain their own personal wealth, authority and position in life, with absolutely no regard given to the wider citizenry of the country. Similarly today, we appear to have an entire political class, along with their special advisers, lobbyists and correspondents who are so dedicated to the retention of their own positions that they have little time to consider the needs, or indeed the demands of the wider electorate, the very people who put them into power in the first place. Perhaps like in Cromwell's era, the time will soon approach where this particularly contemptible congress is finally shown the door by the British people and a truly representative parliamentary system can be put in place, one that will finally decide the issue of our European membership once and for all?