Friday, May 05, 2006

If I'm frightened of something, I want it annihilated

Could that just be friendly advice posted a comment in an earlier post about how it is difficult to get some people to accept cats and other animals. There's a big difference though between being afraid of cats and asking for them to be killed. I used to be scared of cats, one of our past committee members is STILL deadly frightened of them. Same thing with allergies or with being afraid of non-humans. Some people don't like their neighbours - does that mean it's okay to ask for their neighbours to be taken away and killed?

No one is asking people to love cats - but we are saying that tolerance and common sense should prevail. If you look up phobias that people have, the list is extensive. There is a phobia for almost anything - water, light, open space, etc. Yet we don't pander to these phobias because it's impossible to do so. I think that people do pick on animals and cats because it's a quick fix - they are seen to be doing something and quickly. If you talk to some of the complainants and see some of their emails, you'll see that they have a long, long list of complaints - and cats are just one of them. However the others are more difficult to fix whereas it is relatively easier to trap the cats and kill them (though this doesn't make the problem go away).

We do work with people who are frightened of cats, and we have found ways to minimise the problem for them. However if your reaction is I'm scared of them, I want them all killed then there's something I cannot sympathise with.

Also I really dislike the law being trotted out as an excuse to kill animals when there is no basis for doing so. Find me a statute that says there is a statutory basis for saying that community cats must be removed and killed. I dislike the law being used as a means to bully someone else when no such law exists - and that extends to non-animal issues.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

not sure that people actually want them killed .. just out of the way and they don't care how exactly they are put out of the way ... but the "law" i was referring to perhaps is not as much "law" as AVA policy? or is it not even AVA policy? - that when complaints are received about stray animals, the policy is to put them to sleep. And i did think there was a policy/law against HDB residents maintaining cats? so those are the two "laws" or policies that should be the focus of any animal rights group - as long as such policies are in place, the animal abuse/animal-human conflict problem will keep growing over time.

the real time and place to inculcate a love for animals, sport, arts, creativity and all the other things that Singapore would like to become a hub for is early in life, in school. The CWS and other animal welfare groups could perhaps focus on just inculcating a real love for animals and nature in very young people, not just on educating them on something technical like TNRM.

BTW, for people who eat meat on a regular basis, killing an animal is no big deal - they eat the product of that killing at every meal and that can desensitize you to the plight of domesticated animals too. We all know that meats of various animals are eaten with relish in various parts of the world - so as long as meat eating is common, most people will not see the problem in eliminating another animal or two. So many westerners are squeamish about eating certain animal parts or mock Asians for eating certain animals - i have never understood that - why are some animal parts and some animals ok to eat and not others?

6/5/06 1:47 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous, a lot of these people don't WANT to know that they're killed. If you ask them, they'll say they didn't know the cats are killed, and if you tell them, they keep repeating that they don't want to know. Most reasonable people I have found are more than happy to work on an alternative if you tell them there's a way to solve the problem without killing the cats.

As for teaching children in school, I have to disagree. The biggest influence on children are their parents - if you have parents constantly telling them that animals are dirty, should be killed etc then your school talk once or twice a year is not going to make any difference. Also, they're not in any position to make a difference now - but their parents are. If you can get the TNRM information to their parents, and they are convinced though, their children will pick up on that. You need to start making a dent in the problem - and that doesn't work if you think about the children possibly sterilising their cats maybe in twenty years' time.

There is a HDB bylaw which is part of the tenancy agreement, and one of the reasons HDB has given us for not changing the law is that HDB residents haven't asked for it.

And no it is not AVA's policy to remove and kill cats - but they do kill cats that are sent to them. They too support sterilisation.

I also have to disagree with you on eating of meat - I think for many people who eat meat they disassociate the act of eating the meat with the actual animal. If you asked people to actually kill the animal before eating it, I think you'd find a lot of people having a problem with that.

6/5/06 6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think some people like to complain because it makes them feel powerful. All they have to do is pick up the phone and VOILA... almost instant results. Likely these people have self esteem issues.

6/5/06 8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like there is a very strong pragmatic orientation inbuilt into the Singaporean psyche (and in the psyche of many other East Asian cultures) - to tackle problems in as focussed and context-specific a manner as possible - if X is a problem, fix X. If Y is a problem, fix Y. Sometimes, if Z is the underlying cause of X and Y, a better long term solution is to tackle Z, understand why it is so, and work towards mitigating Z - for once Z is tackled, a lot of other problems will just dissolve away.

So Singapore tries to become a centre for the Arts by building an arts centre and bringing big acts at fancy prices. It tries to become cool by building two casinos. It tries to become a sports center by bringing in immigrant athletes. It tries to improve the birth rate, by incentivizing the third or fourth child delivery. A real understanding of why the arts or sports are not flourishing, or why people are not having children, may need a deeper introspection into fundamental beliefs and some more basic changes (e.g. putting less academic pressure on kids at such an early stage in their life so they have time for the arts or sports).

Perhaps that psyche has been ingrained into all the NGOs too. You had a problem with stray cats being killed in an act of insanity, so the solution is to bring the population down through the more humane TNRM.

An animal welfare group, IMHO, should not be about finding one magic tool and proselytizing about that non-stop - as a strategy, that might well work for quite some time (like all the various arts and sports initiatives also just might), especially if the volunteers are numerous and industrious, like they seem to be at the CWS. But in the long term, inculcating a love for animals, promoting animal welfare in all its forms, including a gradual progress towards some form of vegetarianism, etc. would be a better solution at tackling the root causes of all the animal-human conflict issues. I'm guessing that most of the CWS volunteers work hard at CWS because they love cats, not just because they love TNRM. If that love for cats, and other animals and for all living things were more widespread, it might be a lot easier to spread the message of TNRM.

Yes, people try to not think about the consequences of their actions - people who wear a fur coat (or a leather belt or shoe) might not associate that with the killing of an animal. As a matter of strategy, some other animal rights groups try to raise consciousness of that association. Fast food restaurants and processed food companies do a fabulous job of creating other associations for their outputs - some of the chickens in the ads look like they are so happy to be converted into cutlets.

So faced with that, one can rest and say, yes people will just dissociate the killing with the eating, or one can gently point out the contradiction. It is not a pleasant thing to do, and makes one appear wild-eyed and manic, so lots of vegetarians do not proselytize. But i think proselytizing is about spreading a matter of blind faith. Pointing out logical and unarguable connections (e.g. eating that meal was a result of having killed a grown cow, let alone all the environmental damage caused by cattle farming) between different
things that people do is not proselytizing.

Anyway, these are matters one can argue for ever. And some of them have nothing to do with what seems to be the CWS's singular mission - reduce the cat population through TNRM. So there's no point prolonging this discussion.

Sometimes, tackling the root cause is more efficient, sometimes getting to the problem directly is more efficient. What the CWS is doing seems to be working very well. So good luck to you.

6/5/06 10:58 AM  
Blogger calsifer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/5/06 5:19 PM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Well said! I think it doesn't help at all, the tendency of officialdom to assume that the permanent solution to animal-related complaints is to kill. And their attitude and stance is such that people do assume it's the law, legal, all nicely rubber-stamped and irrefutable. I still remember the recent TC by-law saga you detailed.

This must be one of the greatest frustrations of volunteers who work with non-human lives, even if others, public and officious, do not value or respect them as such.

btw, ott a bit but I noticed a curious thing.

Throughout this blog, there's been some entries where anonymous jump in the fray with coherent views and display the enthusiasm to dig in and argue it out. Though I can't say for sure, I'm willing to bet some of the back-and-forth has been with the same anonymous.

Makes for interesting reading, and I'm not complaining, but I am really curious if there's just one anonymous or a few, and I just wonder what sort of 'identity' these anonymouses would come up if they can't be anonymous. =P

If you're still around, anonymous, I'd like to hear, or rather see, your thoughts too.

6/5/06 5:22 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Thanks Calsifer.

Anonymous thanks for sharing your views. I do think it's important to change attitudes but that takes a long time - in the meantime, cats are needlessly dying. We could for example shrug our shoulders and say animal welfare is not a priority so animals will die - or we can do something concrete about it. In the US for example TNR has brought the number of cats and dogs killed down from 13 to 4 million in 10 years of aggressive TNR. At the same time, attitudes to animals change as well. You'd be surprised how having less unwanted animals on the street help with the perception that they are not vermin and should be valued.

Our TNRM programme has also predated the SARS situation - we've always felt sterilisation was the way to go. I don't think this is just an Asian perspective as well as TNR started in Europe and has spread to the rest of the world.

With vegetarianism, which is a little different I think, if people don't want to hear that a cat is being killed because of their direct complaint, then what are the chances that they want to hear that a cow is being killed for them to eat? Especially since the cow some people will argue dies for a utilitarian reason - ie to feed them.

6/5/06 10:14 PM  
Anonymous nice catch, Ms. Marple! said...

calcifier - i fess up. it is indeed i - anonymous - who has been messing with your mind. I and the other anonymous, but no, not that other one with the bad spelling - and yes, sometimes the one who hides behind all kinds of weird names. I speak for all of us :D

some verbal arguments are best made in "pure" form, almost as math, with no identities to confuse the issues. As a veteran of many internet arguments on countless fora on a variety of topics, I have learnt that a name, an age, a race, a gender, even a consistently used nickname - each can do something to set off thoughts about the motivations of arguers and that can mess up the reception of the argument. Perhaps here it is not fair because only one side is anonymous, so as a reward for the nice piece of literary detective work on your part, I shall cease and desist. This will be my last comment, and perhaps my last visit.

Regardless of any arguments i might have offered, i think you are all, the author, and her regular commenters, a fabulous bunch of people. In the material, practical, kiasu/kiasi and self-absorbed world of the majority of the folks in Singapore, it is even more impressive than elsewhere to see a bunch of people to be sort of taking animal policy-making into their own hands, and going out there and implementing it themselves and thereby making a big difference - and that too, to the lives of poor, defenseless animals. It's kind of like, out of Ripley's Believe it or Not. If there were more of you in Singapore, it would really become a first-rate city to live in - the kind that it really wants to be.

May none of you ever get neutered, so you make lots of babies to keep up the supply of folks like you. The cats out there need you and your progeny. And Singapore needs more of you too. More power to all of you!

6/5/06 10:57 PM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Well, if you're still lurking, I rather thought a reward constitute a come-clean expose, especially since as you say, here, there seems to be one-sided anonymity.

Personally, I find anonymity itself the barrier to receptivity, and not bias-bleaching as you suggest.

7/5/06 4:19 PM  

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