I don’t know why I bother

July 30th, 2007

It’s not just Time’s The China Blog (there is no other) that’s full of mediocre posts and worse comment threads. The Sydney Morning Herald jumped on the blogging China bandwagon a while ago. I followed it for a time, but the blog seemed to go dead, so I ignored it until today, when, feeling bored and seeing the link in my bookmarks, I decided to check it out. The second latest article was an introduction to a tiger farm in Guilin, which attracted a huge number of asinine comments (tigers are noble, majestic animals therefore we should never kill them!) and subtle (by Australian standards) racism. Anyway, presented below is what seems to be the most logical comment, written by one Paul Walden, appearing near the bottom of page 5 of the comment thread. Well, I haven’t finished reading through the whole thread, and I don’t think I’ll bother, but of all the comments I’ve read so far, this is the one that comes closest to actually presenting a rational argument. I’ll post it bit by bit with my responses in between:

Granted, no one can claim that the treatment of livestock in Australia and other western nations is optimal. But there are a number of clear differences between the farming operations here and those in China and many other Asian nations.

Good start, Mr Walden. Can’t argue with that.

 Firstly, in Australia, we foremostly farm animals for their protein, which, for those not initiated, is an essential part of our diet (yes, by all means, you can achieve a complete protein source by mixing different vegetable amino acids as well, but as far as I know, scientists aren’t so sure that really does it for our metabolism). In China, on the other hand, animals are bred for purely superstitious reasons.

Last I checked, my father in law raised sheep for their protein, and given the large amount of meat of various (usually perfectly normal) kinds on sale in the markets and supermarkets, I strongly suspect that the overwhelming majority of animals farmed in China are being bred for their protein. That suggests to me that in the overwhelming majority of cases animal breeding in China is no less superstitious than in Australia.

Secondly, people in the west (save those involved in bullfights and illegal dog and rooster fights etc) are generally opposed to unnecessary suffering of animals. In China, however, things are quite different, as can be seen in the rather graphic video clip linked to by Imforthewhales. There’s a huge gap between our basic sets of values here, and, obviously, China has a long way to go.

Y’know, it’s amazing the number of animal cruelty cases I read about in the New Zealand press. And it’s amazing how well taken care of most Chinese pets I’ve seen are. True, Chinese zoos are notorious, and for good reason, but most of the animals I have seen in Chinese zoos looked to be in reasonable health. And true, Chinese people love to see animals performing (just to make a gross generalisation about “the Chinese” myself, but it was not so long ago that such things were just as popular in the West. And farming bears for their bile is beyond abhorrent, but then again, so is battery hen farming So it is absolutely true that China is rather backwards when it comes to animal welfare, but somehow I don’t think the differences between China and the West in that respect are quite so great as you claim.

Thirdly, in China as well as in Japan and many other Asian nations, there’s a blatant disregard for whether the animal species in question will be eradicated or not. At the rate these countries are consuming rare animals, we are bound to see the disappearance of a great number of well-known species in the wild during our lifetime. And tigers only represent one of these groups of animals; for instance, finning is currently decimating a great number of shark species at a staggering pace all around the world. All in the name of stubborn tradition and misguided pride.

And Western countries are somehow innocent of the massive overfishing of the oceans? In fact, the fishing industry is really quite environmentally destructive, and the West is no more innocent than anybody else. I guess we could also add in the really very negative enivronmental effects of Western-style industrial agriculture- habitat loss, pollution from run-off, massive depletion of water resources…… And Australia is certainly not innocent, either, just take a look at the parlous state of the Murray-Darling river system. Nor is New Zealand innocent- go take a look at the state of the lakes in the central North Island. Nor is any other country innocent.

Unless something is done to curb the Asian hunger for a host of rare animals, you can rest assured that your young children will mature into a world less rich in natural beauty than you did. To them, tigers and sharks – among other animals – might well become what the Tasman tiger is to you. Nothing but a memory.

The “Asian hunger for a host of rare animals” does affect certain species in ways that Western “hungers” do not, but take a look at the real picture. All of those “hungers”, be they Asian, Western, African or whatever, are combining to put massive pressure (to put it mildly) on the entire world’s ecosystem. No Asian is any more guilty than anybody else. The ovewhelming majority of them, in fact bear less responsibility for the state of the world’s environment than your average Westerner, since, being too poor to afford the absurdly wasteful lifestyles Westerners are used to, they simply don’t consume the same ridiculously huge amount of resources that are being sucked into ever-expanding Western waistlines.

Finally, to all the rednecks out there (of whom there are unfortunately all to many in this country): don’t let this blog fool you into thinking that the Asian countries have monopoly on immoral behaviour. This problem has nothing to do with race or origin per se – it’s simply a bad habit that needs to be uprooted and extinguished. (Much like the habits of many seemingly civilised Australians when it comes to the appalling treatment of Aboriginals.) It’s just that, in this very blog, we’re discussing the treatment of bred exotic animals, and when it comes to those, the situation in China is cleary way worse than anything you’re likely to encounter in Australia (save possibly at Western Plains Zoo).

Can’t really argue with you there, and the honesty is refreshing, but it would be nice to see that honesty taken a little further. But I’ve ranted enough as it is.

But yes, that was the best comment.

And, well, I really have to wonder what the likes of Time and the SMH are trying to achieve with these blogs. The blog articles are no more informative, and often less informative, than regular Western news reports on China- and the regular news reports hardly go into any depth or context and are all too often little more than “Chinese government bad”, “Chinese economy good”. And the comment threads…… wow……

The good news is there are much better journalist blogs out there.

One Response to “I don’t know why I bother”

  1. University Update - West 8 - I don’t know why I bother Says:

    […] the Webmaster Link to Article west 8 I don’t know why I bother » Posted at bezdomny ex patria on Monday, July […]