Category Archives: SARS

The panicdemic which Singapore authorities used to justify killing more cats in 2003

Why Do East Asians Eat Dog/Cat meat?

(If you find this post informative, you might like to check out these.)


Thinking about Helping China’s Animals, I remembered a lengthy ramble I wrote to a friend in America who asked in Dec 2005:

“Can you tell me why the Chinese and or some Asians still eat dogs and cats? I don’t understand. I am a naive American and to me it is awful but perhaps cultures don’t mix but omnivores eating omnivores (dogs) and carnivores (cats) just seem physically (not to mention morally) wrong no matter what.

CNN just did a video expose on the “Markets of Misery” and it was heartbreaking. My pet cats are my “children” and mean the world to me and I would die to save them from any danger.”

I shared my thoughts on this topic with her and this is what I wrote:

As to your question on why Asians eat dogs and cats – bear with me as I try to reason my way through it… not that I myself understand or approve… but i’ll try to give as objective a view as I can.

Before I go on, I’d like to say that though I’m ethnically Chinese, I’m not a China Chinese, Singapore is quite a country apart from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc as a sovereign state, so I may not be able to give you an accurate view of how it really is. Anyway, I’m not totally into the Chinese Gastro-Culture thing… don’t think I ever will! Esp seeing as i’ve turned veghead =P.

Here goes:

I’m sure you already know that Asians have a reputation/penchant for so-called “exotic” foods. This is much like the French with their taste for fine food, esp things like foie gras, or the italians with their taste for veal. To me, there’s no difference in the human obsession with food, whatever their race or nationality. It just seems funny to me that the highlight is skewed on Asian eating when every country where this sort of thing goes on, whether it is dogs, cats, geese, or cows and calves that suffer the brutality, should be censured.

As for Asians, I will try to tell you more about the Chinese gastronomical philosophy. The Chinese, and to a very large extent, the east asian cultures of Japan, Korea too, have very elaborate systems and schools of thought about food. They are also very very proud of their gastro-cultural heritage.

East Asians believe in the therapeutic values of certain foods, for the Chinese esp, and they even have a whole thing about nourishment according to shape/similarity in function of a specific part. EG rhino horn, tiger penis, deer penis for aphrodisiacs, pig brains for boosting brain power, bear bile for fever, etc. There is also a culture of appreciation for “fine/exotic food” – sharksfin, abalone, live monkey brain, live bear paws. In addition, there is another, yes, another, thing about eating food according to seasons. For the Chinese, “cooling food” like fruits or maybe cold meat dishes, deer antler shavings in summer, and “warming food” in winter, like dogmeat, wildgame etc. (I confess that I do not understand where catmeat figure in this, but I susepct in the warming food category.)

In particular, the Cantonese dialect group – the province of Guangdong/Canton, next to Hong Kong – who are the emperors of Chinese gastro-culture, like the French for the Western world, are the ones with their heads in gastronomical “heaven”, which means bleeding hell for animals, is the most fervent about food. (Guangdong is also where most of the exotic food culture exists, and extends out from there to other parts of China. This is also where most of the videos of the dog and cat meat markets are shot.)

Of course, this gastro-culture has been condemned worldwide. But so? To date, it still goes on. It has also led to and encouraged poaching of exotics – like tigers, leopards, bears, rhinos, sharks. If it’s something edible, you can bet that someone in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and maybe even Japan, and Korea will pay for it. In addition, don’t forget that the Chinese have a presence in almost every other country as immigrants. The extent of the damage of this gastroculture, is, imho, nightmarish.

In 2003, SARS started from Guangdong, spread to Hong Kong, and was carried into Singapore by a stewardess. The cause in Guangdong was believed to be the Cantonese penchant for wild game, and it was narrowed down to civet cats. Thus began an extermination drive of civet cats already in the market place – inhumane methods like boiling, electrocution, drowning in chemicals (some live drowning footage was shown on the local news so this is not hearsay)… civet cat meat was banned, and so was exotic meat trapping, and the exotic meat markets quietened down considerably… but that lasted about as long as a droplet of sneeze stays airborne. By late 2003, the meat markets were back in full blossom. And in Singapore, the government jumped at the mere mention of a possibility of SARS transmission by cats, and ordered an end to our national TnRM programme, which was just barely 5 yrs old, and began culling cats in earnest. That year, the official stray culling bill was SGD$600,000, SGD$100,000 more than the yearly average. Like many cat-caregivers, my sister and I lost a few cats we cared for, all on the whim of a fear.

In case my statement about me not being a China-Chinese leads you to think that things are rosy here in Singapore – here’s a few facts to show that Singapore is as bad, if not worse than the rest of Asia:

  1. we are the largest trade center for sharksfin
  2. as a trading hub, smuggling and the illegal wildlife trade has a big presence here too, (though not as rampant as Thailand) – there has been cases of raids and consfication of illegally smuggled animals for export or sales/consumption locally
  3. A friend also told me how a colleague was extolling the great taste of the live-monkey brain she had in Hong Kong just last year
  4. This year, there was a newspaper feature about a local man who has set up a hunting club and there was even a link to his site where he displayed the trophy photos of him and his cohorts on hunting trips to Africa – he makes a living organising these murder sprees too
  5. Our anti-animal smuggling/illegal trade laws are too lenient – punishment is for per/species, and no sentence has ever even come close to the max punishment of a max fine of SGD$10,000 and jail term of 1 yr. NEVER.

Further afield, another one of my pet rant is the whale-hunting sham of the Japanese. One strange thing about the Japanese and eating whales is that whales were not a traditional part of the Japanese gastro-culture. Apparently, whale meat became popular in Japan after the economic collapse casued by WWII. Their defense of their right to eat whale as tradition, is in short, a load of bull. The Koreans too, have a thing for whale meat; whether this is influenced by the Japanese, who ruled them as a colony until early the 1900s, I’m not sure.

Back to your question about why cats and dogs for Asians. With cats, East Asians, apart from the Japanese I believe, did not have as cosy a relationship like Europeans and Americans have, ie they were not popular as pets until recent history. Incidentally, there is also a very common misconception that Malays are great cat lovers, but that’s another, much more sensitive topic. As for dogs… well… traditionally they are viewed more as working animals, property like any other object, or livestock.

Actually you know what? Whether cats, dogs, geese or other animals, I think it boils down to what I believed is called the human disconnect mentality. Like our attitude towards factory farming – we know it is morally wrong to treat animals the way they’ve been, especially cows, pigs, goats, chickens ducks, and other everyday food animals. But it still goes on – because we allow it to. And we can allow it go on, because we’re disconnected from the reality of the factoryfarm and the assembly process slaughter-houses.

And speaking of exotic food, how about bushmeat… Africans eat gorillas, and other primates. In Asia too the same is happening to the Orang Utans, the only great ape to be found in Asia. The Malaysians, and Indonesian kill Orangutans, eat them, sell their babies, in addition to destroying their habitat – like Gorillas, orang utans are not expected to survive long unless things change – the orangs have only another 5, maybe 10 years in the best of scenarios.

To be fair, and I am saying this objectively, there are also many people who do not eat meat at all – vegetarianism is a big part of being devout Buddhists and Taoists (except Japan where I understand the concept of total meat abstinence does not exist). There are others who are against the cruelties in Asia on moral grounds, though the number is small.

But people are working against the horrors of Asian gastro-culture. For example, bearbile farm rescue, anti-dog/cat meat eating campaigns in Korea and China and so on. There’s so much to fight against, and so little headway achieved – fighting against the largest continent of humans with thousands of years of gastro-pride is no mean feat. But there are people working on it.

I just wish more people will acknowledge the cruelties perpetuated in their names and for their sakes! Visit this site and scroll down to for a list of some animal-welfare/activist groups in Asia fighting the fight: http://acres.org.sg/links.html

WELL! I’ve been rambling… sorry for that. I do hope your patience hasn’t run out, and that you did find something useful in all that verbage =)


(If you find this post informative, you might like to check out these.)

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The avian flu fright: Politically timed for global ‘iatrogenocide’

The avian flu fright: Politically timed for global ‘iatrogenocide’ By Dr. Leonard Horowitz

I found this article very insightful. I find this article disturbing now. It was something I had read back in 2005. I think the thoughts and ideas, scarily, do apply look plausible on initial look.

(Edit: Apparently, this is nothing but a well-constructed delusion – Dr Horowitz has a preceding reputation. Thanks, budak. As the Deep Throat might say: yes, the truth is out there, Mulder, but don’t believe the first LGMs you cross paths with, it might just be Halloween.)

Threat to cats: H5N1 aka deadly strain of Bird Flu

Remember SARS? And how the paranoia undid the good work of the local and officially sanctioned version of TNRM, SCRS because of high-ups in the government who decided it was good policy to cull cats upon hearing that it may have originated in civet cats, exotic meat, eaten in Guangdong, even though civet cats are no more related to cats, feline catus, than those of us in the primate family?

Bird flu had, and still has the potential to become kiasu-kiasi-triggered death sentence no 2 for cats. But really, after all that is said and done, bird flu IS a virus of our own hatching. Before Singapore goes cull-happy again, we should really look at WHAT is the root cause of the thus-far theorised pandemic, lest we jump the gun, to our detriment, like this.

According to Dawn, reason seem to be prevailing thus far. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

H5N1

There was some alarm because there have been reports in the local press that H5N1 was spread in cats in Indonesia that were found in area with infected birds.

Here’s an article from the New Scientist :-
H5N1 and cats

Here’s what we already knew :-

Cats can catch the disease. So can dogs. So can pigs. So can birds. So can people. As I said in an earlier thread, I wouldn’t be surprised if most mammals can catch it.

As such, I’m not surprised that cats would have caught it if they ate infected birds. Note also that these cats didn’t HAVE the disease they had the antibodies to it. In fact, the cats were released back onto the street after they had been tested. Presumably it must mean the cats were all pretty healthy.

It also doesn’t mean that cats will spread it to people.

In addition, read what Dr Osterhaus had to say at the end of the article. He said that killing cats will not solve the problem. He says that the impact could send the infected animals elsewhere and lead to a population of disease-carrying rodents.

Perhaps another thing to do would be to stop returning potentially infected birds to the people to eat!

Deadly H5N1 may be brewing in cats

24 January 2007

From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.

Debora Mackenzie

Bird flu hasn’t gone away. The discovery, announced last week, that the H5N1 bird flu virus is widespread in cats in locations across Indonesia has refocused attention on the danger that the deadly virus could be mutating into a form that can infect humans far more easily.

In the first survey of its kind, an Indonesian scientist has found that in areas where there have been outbreaks of H5N1 in poultry and humans, 1 in 5 cats have been infected with the virus, and survived. This suggests that as outbreaks continue to flare across Asia and Africa, H5N1 will have vastly more opportunities to adapt to mammals than had been supposed.

Chairul Anwar Nidom of Airlangga University in Surabaya, Indonesia, told journalists last week that he had taken blood samples from 500 stray cats near poultry markets in four areas of Java, including the capital, Jakarta, and one area in Sumatra, all of which have recently had outbreaks of H5N1 in poultry and people.

Of these cats, 20 per cent carried antibodies to H5N1. This does not mean that they were still carrying the virus, only that they had been infected – probably through eating birds that had H5N1. Many other cats that were infected are likely to have died from the resulting illness, so many more than 20 per cent of the original cat populations may have acquired H5N1.

This is a much higher rate of infection than has been found in surveys of apparently healthy birds in Asia. “I am quite taken aback by the results,” says Nidom, who also found the virus in Indonesian pigs in 2005. He plans further tests of the samples at the University of Tokyo in February.

Amin Soebandrio, head of medical sciences at the Indonesian ministry for research and technology, confirmed the report. He says that the infection has also been found in dogs and cats on the Indonesian island of Bali, which has also had outbreaks of H5N1. The new findings follow reports that unusually large numbers of dead cats have been found near many outbreaks of H5N1. “Javanese farmers even have a word for the cat disease,” says Albert Osterhaus of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It was Osterhaus’s lab which in 2004 found that cats can catch the H5N1 virus. Like humans, some cats die, and some recover. But unlike humans, infected cats shed large amounts of the virus and pass it to each other.

Infected cats may not directly increase the danger of people catching the virus, as humans seem to catch the current strain only with difficulty even from birds, which they kill, pluck and eat. The main worry, says Osterhaus, is that as the virus replicates in cats it will further adapt to mammals and acquire the ability to spread more efficiently to people and from person to person, unleashing a human pandemic.

Nidom’s findings are the first to indicate what proportion of cats can become infected by H5N1. No cats have been tested in Hong Kong or China. In Bangkok, Thailand, all the cats in one household are known to have died of H5N1 in 2004. Tigers and leopards in Thai zoos also died, while last year two cats near an outbreak in poultry and people in Iraq were confirmed to have died of H5N1, as were three German cats that ate wild birds. In Austria cats were infected but remained healthy (New Scientist, 18 March 2006, p 6).

Though Osterhaus says Nidom’s figures must be confirmed, he says they aren’t surprising, and is even encouraged that they aren’t worse. A higher percentage of infected predators than prey makes sense, as each predator eats many prey animals. “At least that percentage shows the virus has not completely adapted to cats – yet,” Osterhaus says. If it had, all cats in a stricken area should be infected, as with ordinary flu in humans.

Osterhaus emphasises that the cat infections still pose a potential threat. “We know the 1918 pandemic was a bird flu virus that adapted to mammals in some intermediate mammalian host, possibly pigs,” he says. “Maybe for H5N1 the intermediate host is cats.” If similar percentages of cats are infected at every outbreak location, there must have been many thousands of cat infections since the virus emerged, compared to 267 confirmed cases in humans. Every sick cat is a chance for the virus to adapt, and with renewed outbreaks this year in birds, people or both in China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria, it is getting plenty of such chances.

Killing cats won’t solve the problem, Osterhaus warns. Like shooting wild birds, it is unlikely to have much impact and could send infected animals elsewhere. It would also lead to a population explosion of disease-carrying rodents, which the cats normally keep in check.

“Cats must just be kept from eating sick chickens,” Osterhaus says, though this will be a tall order in open-air markets across Asia and Africa, which are typically swarming with hungry cats. In Jakarta this week, officials are slaughtering thousands of banned backyard poultry – then handing them back for their owners to eat. Some of the birds could well be infected despite appearing healthy. It is hard to imagine the local cats not getting their share.

Will the drugs still work?

In late December, a man and his niece died of H5N1 flu in Gharbiyah province in Egypt’s Nile delta. Both had been taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu and both were found to be infected with a virus containing a mutation that makes it partially resistant to the drug. They had been on Tamiflu for only two days, so the virus may already have been resistant when they caught it.

This is a worrying development. Tamiflu-resistant strains are not usually contagious because the mutations that make the virus resistant usually also cripple it. Countries with stockpiles of Tamiflu had been hoping this might limit the spread of drug-resistant strains during a pandemic, but resistance mutations have recently been seen that don’t slow the virus’s spread so much.

Marc Lipsitch and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston have used a computer model to assess the likely impact of such mutations. They showed that if a drug-resistance mutation emerges during a pandemic that cuts the virus’s fitness by 20 per cent or less, the resistant strain will have so much advantage over non-resistant viruses that it will spread until perhaps a third or more of all cases are drug-resistant (PLoS Medicine, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0040015). This will happen, they predict, even if such strains emerge very rarely.

“This may mean fewer deaths, or more, depending on how the resistant virus behaves,” says Lipsitch, who points to an unexpected bright spot of his team’s findings. “What surprised us is that even if the resistant strain spreads quite widely, its emergence will delay the peak of the pandemic by as much as a year.” This happens because the resistant strain is less fit and also because it takes time to get going.

This is good news because as much as possible needs to be done to provide a breathing space at the beginning of a pandemic. “The whole point is to delay the pandemic until we can get a good vaccine made,” Lipsitch says. The model showed that it should be possible to extend such a delay by closing schools or giving people a partially effective pre-pandemic vaccine against H5 flu.

An even bigger computer model of a flu pandemic published in the same journal (PLoS Medicine, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0040013), echoes these findings. Alessandro Vespignani at Indiana University, Bloomington, and colleagues found that as long as every person infected with pandemic flu infects fewer than two more people, antivirals could delay the pandemic peak by a year. During the 1918 flu pandemic, each infected person is thought to have spread it to 1.8 people, on average.

Since few of the countries where a pandemic virus is most likely to emerge have adequate stockpiles of antivirals, rich countries will need to pitch in to achieve this. Strategically sharing just 10 per cent of their stockpiles should be enough to make this strategy work, the study suggests.

From issue 2588 of New Scientist magazine, 24 January 2007, page 6-7

Printed on Wed Jan 31 05:37:58 GMT 2007

South Korea to kill cats and dogs

I was wondering what’s in the air, but there’s a stink in it too. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

South Korea to kill cats and dogs

Sigh. Not again.

When they started killing dogs and cats in China during SARS, I was quite convinced that in Singapore, we would behave in a more rational manner and would not do something like that. Obviously I was wrong. When there is panic and hysteria, people just tend to over-react. Of course it is important to take the right measures to protect health – and no one argues with that. However, when over-reaction and hysteria take over, it’s not just worrying for the animals – but for people too. It brings out the absolute worst in people.

South Korea to kill animals

South Korea to kill animals in bird flu scare

Note that all the medical experts say they see no reason to kill the dogs and cats. Let’s hope that bird flu doesn’t spread and this is quickly contained. And let’s hope we all keep our heads if the worst happens and it does spread.

(Source: Dawn’s blog)

What does it serve, except assuage some ruffled brass? SARS killed more cats than humans in Singapore because of human fear. It also killed dogs, civet cats, and tons of other animals in China, where it originated. I saw footage of civet cats being electrocuted and drowned in corrosive/toxic chemical baths. There was even a ban on exotic meat. And yet, barely a year later, civet cats were the rage in the Guangdong exotic meat markets, breeding ground of SARS if the theory that people who ate civet cats got it and gave it a round-the-world free trip.

I hope, like Dawn said in the comments section, that Singapore, vaulted ‘developed’ economy of South-East Asia, will not regress into barbarism and kill animals just because of a suspected and never proven possibility, again.