Friday, August 04, 2006

News Flash: Dog No Longer Man's Best Friend (At Least in China)

As a dog lover, this CNN article really bothered me: Second mass dog slaughter in China.
SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- For the second time in days, Chinese authorities have ordered a mass slaughter of dogs to curb a rabies outbreak -- drawing criticism from animal lovers but also support from many who say it's the only way to contain a disease that kills more than 2,000 Chinese a year.

Officials in the eastern city of Jining plan to kill all dogs within three miles of areas where rabies has been found, the official Xinhua News Agency said Friday.

The measure came in response to the deaths of 16 people from rabies in Jining in the last eight months, Xinhua said.
"I'll take 'Ways NOT to Respond to a Health Crisis' for $200, Alec."

The article goes on to suggest that this is an unreasonable response, especially in light of the medical options (i.e. vaccination) that are available, though not widely used.

The article also states:
The killings have also prompted a slew of impassioned postings in online forums.

"Tens of thousands of people die in traffic accidents each year, but we don't ban cars. Dogs are simply easy to persecute," said one unsigned posting on Xinhua's electronic bulletin board.

"People opposed to killing dogs ought to think how they'd feel if they or a relative was infected with rabies. Are people's or dogs' lives more important?" said another, also unsigned.
In my opinion, the quoted posts miss the point. It's not about persecution nor is it about the relative value of dogs' lives versus peoples' lives. Rather the issue is how a country should go about responding to the health threat of rabies. Should the government mandate a mass genocide of potentially affected animals? Or should the government mandate vaccination and better practices where failure to comply with them carries stiff penalties?

In other words, there has got to be a better approach. This is an overreaction that is going to do far more than merely harm a bunch of animals – it's also going to significantly affect public perception of Chinese government and the public image of China. I wouldn't be surprised if this action carries severe repercussions for China and Chinese companies on an international scale. Okay, so that's more of a wish than a prediction. But I'm an avowed dog lover. I would throw an absolute fit if something like this were attempted with my dogs.

By the way, I'm specifically ignoring the part about precisely how the dogs are killed. If curious, read the article. I refuse to discuss it here.