Sunday, 11 February 2007

ANIMALS IN THE REALM OF KNOWLEDGE


In September 2003, a native Philippine dog or askal was brutally clubbed to death in the garage of one of the more prominent and visible college of the University of the Philippines in Diliman. The reason – college officials thought the dog had gone mad when he killed the less than a month old puppies of his mother, Media. Not at all knowledgeable about animal behavior, a top employee ordered the guards to kill the dog without first seeking the advice of a vet or animal behaviorist. The College of Veterinary Medicine was just a few minutes away. As Chair of the Journalism Department and member of the College Executive Board (CEB), I told the college officials that the killing was illegal in the Animal Welfare Law. No One seemed interested in the incident.

The fact that such a heartless crime took place in the country’s premier university only stresses the lack of awareness and interest in the plight of animals in the country. Although animal stories appear more often on television and in the print media, their treatment leaves much to be desired. Recently, a former student from my Television Journalism class said the program producer was looking for animal stories for the masa (masses). If I am to infer what this means from current TV fare, it probably refers to stories on cooking snake adobo, etc… Not much dignity is bestowed on the animals in such stories.

In the fields of education and research, students, as a general rule, are not encouraged to sympathize with the animals. In medical schools, stories abound about how students capture stray cats for dissection in their classes. When I was a grade schooler in a Catholic school, my classmates and I were asked to trap lizards and cut their tails off so we could watch them grow back. Dissection of frogs was also mandatory in biology classes.

Considering the way students are taught how to regard animals, it is no wonder that when many graduate and become vets, many lack a sensitivity that is crucial to the survival and well-being of animal patients. Most vets in the Philippines look at animals as commodities and sources of income. A vet even euthanized my Persian cat even if he was healthy. It seems many vets easily resort to euthanasia when the animal bites.

Language is often said to be a function of culture. If so, then it would be interesting to note the use of the word buwaya (crocodile) to refer to corrupt politicians and baboy (pig) which refers to a dirty and fat person.

But is it really cultural? Can it be said that the Filipinos’ apparent lack of respect for the other members of the animal kingdom is borne out of culture?

Despite all the flak the concept of globalization has been getting in the Philippines, the entry of ideas and news from abroad via communications technology and books has made many Filipinos aware of the new trends and concepts. In 1996, members of the House of Representatives approved a bill on Animal Welfare. Though the law has many loopholes (like banning dog fights and horse fights but not cockfights), it is a big step forward to help the animals. Implementation of the law, however, is another matter altogether.

I hope to write in this blog informative ideas about ANIMALS IN DIFFERENT REALMS OF KNOWLEDGE -- ANIMALS IN MEDIA, IN LAW, EDUCATION, RESEARCH, LINGUISTICS, VETERINARY PROFESSION, ETC.

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