Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SPCA - the Cultural Acceptability Crusaders

This morning, I'm wondering if there is an SPCHG (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Huhu Grubs). If so, they would have been appalled at the callous, inhumane way in which the friendly man who picked up some firewood from my property this morning ate the fat, raw huhu grub off a log. I was certainly left feeling queasy. But, hey, each to their own.

I note that the SPCA (Animals) is calling for a review of the Animal Welfare Act after a man cooked his dog in his umu pit. The Tongan man, Paea Taufa, living in South Auckland, decided to eat the dog because presumably he eats other meat and enjoys the taste of dog too, and his dog had become unmanageable. Presumably the SPCA would have preferred him to release his dog to the rampant breeding grounds that they so excitedly denounce at every funding opportunity. If people consume dogs, does that mean there will be fewer stray dogs roaming the streets and breeding, and therefore will this make it harder for the SPCA to get funding to pay for euthanasia drugs?

The Animal Welfare Act does permit the killing of dogs if the animal is slaughtered quickly and painlessly. The man in question did kill his dog humanely, so I'm at a loss to explain why the Auckland SPCA chief executive, Garth Halliday, now wants a review of the Act to ensure such practices are "condemned". Allow me to systematically condemn the SPCA now.

"Clearly this culture is totally unacceptable in New Zealand."
Is it? What culture is acceptable in NZ then? If there is to be "acceptable" and "unacceptable" cultures now, I would like to know what the cultural expectations are of me. Is it culturally acceptable in NZ to eat huhu grubs? I don't believe huhu grub consumption is widespread, even in NZ. Ergo, is not culturally acceptable? There are many Pacific Islanders in NZ - are you saying that it is unacceptable for them to recognise and embrace their culture just because they now live in NZ?

He then unwisely continues:
[However], we must understand that to certain immigrants from the Pacific Islands the practice is considered normal."
Yes. It is considered NORMAL. Just like to certain immigrants, the practice of eating goats, sheep, cows, birds, horses, cats, snakes, crocodiles is considered normal. You implore us to show understanding while at the same time denouncing Mr Taufa for following a practice that is legal, was carried out in a humane way, and is acceptable to the people in his community.

Oh, please Mr Halliday, please stop before you say something more. Oh no, no, no! You go on!

"The law as it stands does not allow the SPCA to prosecute those who indulge in this habit if the animal is killed humanely, as it was in this case, neither does the law condemn the eating of domestic pets."

Surely, in this instance, the law is to be praised. Please define "domestic pets", Mr Halliday. I have sheep, chickens, ducks and fish. These animals are on my property because I think they are cute. They have names. My children play freely with them. They are not for consumption. Therefore, I would regard them as domestic pets. Are you telling me that the law should be changed to condemn the eating of sheep, chickens, ducks and fish (and their by-products - think about where the gelatine in your marshmallow came from, Mr Halliday). Do you eat these animals? Would you support a law that prevented you from eating them?

I am failing to see how it is possible at all for you to take the moral high ground; even if you are a strict vegan, you have no right to dictate that we all be strict vegans.

Apparently the Auckland SPCA and NZ Companion Animal Council are going to provide all island immigrants with multi-lingual brochures to provide basic animal welfare guidelines. I seriously hope these brochures do not impose "culturally acceptable" guidelines on immigrants.

And why stop at Pacific Island immigrants? What right does the SPCA have to "talk to Tongan community leaders about preventing the killing of dogs for human consumption"? I implore the Tongan community leaders to ignore the rhetoric of the SPCA, and to increase your dog consumption in the interests of preventing rampant mongrel breeding. And because you enjoy dog meat and are killing the dogs humanely.

Robyn Kippenberger, SPCA national chief executive, wades deeper in the SPCA hole by suggesting that the issue might be viewed differently by other cultures (presumably she is referring to cultures other than hers and Mr Halliday's). I believe she is incorrect when she claims that "the overwhelming majority of NZers of all ethnicities will share our shock and concern over this incident." According to one article on this, killing and eating dog in NZ is becoming more common. I look forward to the day when dog is an acceptable item on the menu at the local takeaway. I may not choose to eat it, but I would be pleased to see the market respond to people's tastes, just like it excites me when the market responds by catering to the different tastes of different immigrants.

She marginally redeems herself by saying it is also an issue of Food Safety (presumably around home slaughter and hygiene?). But there's a whole blog there on the pointlessness of the NZFSA that I'm not sure I have the energy for now.

The SPCA is planning to raise the issue with the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs. Will common sense and the rights of immigrants to eat what they want to eat (and hopefully encourage others to try their cuisine) prevail with Georgina te Heuheu?

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