Mr “Ban-cats-AND-dogs-from-flats” Heng aka “Old-folks-who-fall-have-only-themselves-to-blame” Heng is at it again.
I agree with Budak who posted this comment on vegancat’s blog entery of Mr Heng’s latest antics:
The most ’substantive’ points he can raise in his rambling rebuttal to counter a well-thought out survey are crowded pet shops (a valid problem but not at all relevant here) and some stupid American TV show? And though he doesn’t state it explicitly this time, it’s clear he thinks pets don’t belong in flats, with no other reason than his perceived notion of their ‘problems. Says something about the ST Forum that they accept such incoherent letters…
Dawn’s thoughts on it are also worth thinking about
Thanks Vegancat for sending this letter in.
Keeping animals : How to handle a pet peeve
As Vegancat pointed out, it’s interesting that a response to an online forum letter was printed in the print edition this time around.
The actual letter (which I had missed) was a very interesting article on how some graduate students from Darwin Australia came to Singapore to do a survey and found that most Singaporeans were responsible pet owners and that they took their responsibilities seriously. In addition, they found animals to be an intergral part of their lives.
While we don’t know how large the sample size was, I think Mr Heng misses the point when he says that he can only seek to know a fraction of the Chinese soul though he visits China for a few months a year. The sample size here isn’t of one (ie Mr Heng) but presumably the students actually interviewed a number of people, including people who DO live in three-roomed HDB flats.
I also think it’ll be a very sad day when we decide to round up animals and put them in a zoo. It’s like saying that we should pull down all our historic landmarks and buildings and telling people to go to a museum and see them. A child can learn so much more from daily experience – and not from a once or twice yearly visit to the zoo. If you walk around Rome for example, the culture of Rome is exemplified by not just by the beautiful ancient buildings, but the many cats cared for by the Romans. In a young country striving to learn just whom we are, I think it would be a huge shame if we decided to become an arid, soul-less place without animals.
posted by Dawn @ 9:37 AM
It is really really weirdness that ST entertains Mr Heng’s dogma, and even lets his letter see ink! Especially when the letter he’s ranting against is an online letter (also appended).
The Straits Times
ST ForumFeb 22, 2007Keeping animals: How to handle a pet peeve
I REFER to the letter, ‘Important to take the time to understand a culture before making judgments’ by Mr Roni Roberts (ST, Feb 16) in which he commented on whether HDB flat dwellers should or should not keep pets as ‘an integral part of the family unit’.
Some people keep pets because they truly love them and care for them with utter devotion. They do not mind spending a fortune to take their pet to see the vet whenever it is sick. Some keep pets because they are childless and want to drive out the silence and monotony of the home.
I once visited a friend who lives on the second level of a block of HDB flats. On the ground floor is a pet shop which sells birds and hamsters. Residents nearby have to put up with the noise, smell and mess 365 days of the year. With the spread of bird flu, I wonder if it is safe to live in such an environment.
The TV series Miami Animal Police shows us that not every pet owner is a responsible individual. It shows emaciated dogs which have not eaten for two weeks and snakes kept in a small cage when their owner was away on vacation overseas. Some goats were locked in a small enclosure and left unfed for days on end.
Perhaps we should have a battalion of animal police in Singapore to ensure our animals are not abused or neglected.
If our children are serious about wanting to know more about animals, they can always visit the zoo, the bird park or even Pulau Ubin.
Pulau Ubin has animals galore, from butterflies and snakes to wild boars and flying foxes. This is in addition to the rich flora which is part and parcel of the natural landscape.
In Chua Chu Kang, there are fish, goat, frog and chicken farms which are open to the public.
Parents can always take their kids to such places for a close encounter with animals.
If Mr Roberts were to live in a three-room HDB flat for six months, perhaps his notion of keeping pets in a densely populated country would be different.
I have visited China for several months in a year and to date I know only a fraction of Chinese culture and the innate Chinese soul.
Heng Cho Choon
Straits Times, Online ST Forum
Feb 16, 2007
Important to take the time to understand a culture before making judgments
We are a group of postgraduate students from Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. We visited the vibrant and beautiful Singapore for an intensive study in Cross-Cultural Management Skills last October. We had seven days of intensive study aimed at improving our cross-cultural effectiveness through:
>>Examining the influence of cultural differences on management skills, behaviour and performance
>>Being involved in experiences which enable us to identify significant issues of cross-cultural behaviour; and
>>Examining our own cultural background and how it affects our behaviour and interactions with other people.
Part of the experiential learning programme included exploring a hypothesis that ‘pets are not a significant part of homes in Singapore, because of housing constraints, prohibitive costs, rules and regulations and cultural beliefs’.
The methodology involved observations by the group over a period of several days, inviting a cross-section of the community to respond to a questionnaire and offer anecdotal evidence.
Our hypothesis was based on assumptions that Australians live in a space-rich environment and there are very few limitations or constraints that impact negatively on pet ownership in Darwin. We were very aware that we didn’t want to impose our value system in another culture and, in doing so, were careful to choose a culture-neutral topic that would allow us to engage the local communities to get below the tip of the iceberg.
As first-time visitors to Singapore, the group was humbled and appreciative at the level of openness and friendship shown to them by Singaporeans. Not only were they prepared to help with the study but they were also prepared to share stories and time with warmth and sincerity. Our language and cultural differences were transformed into a pleasurable opportunity for shared learning.
The group was seeking to identify explicit evidence to support our thesis, such as a perceived absence of: pet shops, people exercising pets, pet advertising and veterinary surgeries et cetera. Additionally, the group explored Singaporean attitudes, values and beliefs related to pet ownership.
Is housing a constraint for Singaporeans owning pets? All the people interviewed lived in high-density housing, such as flats and condominiums. Although the minority of people owned pets, none of the participants who didn’t have pets gave housing constraints as a reason. On the contrary, they all seemed to agree that it was acceptable to have pets in this type of environment provided the animal was of a reasonable size, well looked after and controlled.
Are costs prohibitive to Singaporeans owning pets? It appeared, from the responses, that the cost of owning different types of pets is well understood and is not a priority consideration for the participants.
Are rules and regulations a deterrent to Singaporeans owning pets? Although most of the respondents were unclear about the specific rules and regulations regarding ownership of pets, they supported the need for appropriate animal-control measures. Most held the view that there is a strong element of self-management by residents of Singapore. Owners who allow their pets to become a nuisance to others will be reported to the authorities and they believe the offending owner will be dealt with.
Do cultural beliefs impact upon the decision by Singaporeans to own pets? The majority of people participating in the study were of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Arab origin. Other than a clear message that Muslim beliefs do not allow ownership of dogs, or birds in cages, there was no strong evidence to suggest any difference based on ethnic origin of the participants.
While carrying out the survey some interesting additional information became apparent. For example;
>>Some people did not own animals because of allergies, lack of time or they don’t want responsibility of ownership;
>>The participants didn’t seem to be concerned that future generations of Singaporeans may not have direct access to live animals, other than domestic pets, unless they visit the zoo and take overseas travel;
>>Most of the participants interviewed believed there was little or no native wildlife left in Singapore;
>>The ownership of pets is taken very seriously and with a very responsible attitude. The indication from the participants was that they were prepared to strongly defend their right to own a pet. They are viewed as an integral part of the family unit;
>>There was a general consensus that stray animals are numerous and represent a health risk to humans. Despite this concern, there was agreement that stray animals have a right to life and should be appropriately cared for. ‘Either people should feed them at the same time everyday, or call the SPCA to collect and care for them.’
By engaging locals on a deeper level, our time in Singapore has taken us well beyond the experience of the average tourist. If the purpose of this unit was to improve our cross-cultural awareness and thus effectiveness, then the group concurs that this has been achieved. Rather than this being taught to us in the usual academic way, it has been a journey of discovery, which was achieved in partnership with the local people of Singapore.
At the beginning the group had assumptions that have since been tested and proven invalid. This demonstrates the importance of taking the time to understand a culture before making a judgment about behaviour and applying our own values to a person and expecting their behaviour to follow.
The implication for the future is that people with different views and backgrounds best achieve successful outcomes when they share responsibility for each other’s learning regardless of culture.