Recently I came across a posting on Facebook that was accompanied by the shocking photo above, and several others like it. Do you see anything wrong? Look closely at the photo.
I mistakenly thought these dogs must be the product of the atrocities currently so prevalent in certain Islamic regimes, where dogs have been declared unfit to live. Street dogs are being captured and viciously tortured by teenage boys, with total impunity. I have previously come across a rescue group in Vancouver that is attempting rescue survivors and get as many of these sorely abused creatures out of the country as possible (albeit with limited success). The photo above is alarmingly similar to those I have seen illustrating the mutilations perpetrated upon the street dogs.
However, upon investigation, it became clear that the posting was from somebody transporting one of these puppies from Saskatchewan to BC. They are a breed little known in Canada, called an Alabai. This is a livestock guardian breed that originates in Central Asia.
There was a comment asking "Are the dog's ears naturally so small?" Somebody replied that both the tail and the ears had been docked. This, they said, was "traditional and very common". A little research confirmed that this definitely is the case. This poor breed get most of their tails hacked off and have virtually no ear flaps to speak of, after ‘standard practice’ has been performed upon them.
I considered this plain wrong. Not only is it some of the worst mutilation I’ve seen, but also, it took place in Saskatchewan, where docking for cosmetic purposes may not be carried out by vets (as laid out in point 33:6 of the provincial veterinary code of practice bylaws).
Sufficiently inflamed, I responded to the posting, stating that the practice of docking was not only unnecessary and cruel, but since it is forbidden in the province, the breeder must have performed the surgeries. (This is not uncommon in places where docking has been banned, and can provide a right of action for SPCA prosecution.)
The next response I got very forcefully let me know that there was nothing wrong with docking, and that a vet had indeed carried out the operations.
When I asked for the vet’s name, stating that I wanted to report them to the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association for breaching their bylaws and perpetrating unnecessary acts of cruelty, they declined to give me the vet's details.
Frankly, all of this is nothing new. If you are a follower of my writings, then you may have a vague memory of my November 2015 blog entitled 'The Cruelest Cut of All?' My feelings about the subject haven't changed one iota, and there's not really a great deal to add from my perspective.
What I find noteworthy/appalling about this situation was that at this point, all hell broke loose.
I found myself deluged by other FB users, variously telling me to mind my own business, that docking was fine, listing legitimisations for docking, using very abusive language to reply to me, calling me names, and being generally unpleasant and highly defensive about what I had written. One even called me a "f**king right wing vegan hippy"! (I had to laugh at that one. I asked them if they knew what 'right wing' meant, but got no reply!) Surprisingly, all the comments were from women.
Well, if you know me, you will know what happened next. I am not inclined to back off about many things, and I certainly won't back down when dog welfare is the issue. I responded to each and every assault that came my way, until eventually, everyone went away, probably browbeaten by my stubborn temerity, rather than being persuaded by my arguments. I fielded the most ridiculous, inane and hollow arguments, politely and logically. I responded to the unwarranted abuse with questions and challenges to the individuals concerning their motivations, with no trace of rudeness. I did not lose my cool, give any ground, or stoop to the levels of my assailants.
A number of things struck me about what transpired:
1. The rudeness of the responses to me were utterly disproportionate to what I was saying. The abuse was unnecessary and unpleasant. I had criticised a practice, not an individual; yet all of the responses included attacks on me personally.
Why do people feel that they need to attack, rather than debate or discuss? Is the whole of society becoming a nasty by-product of the Drumpf influence; or is he merely what society deserves, as a by-product of and mirror for itself? What is happening to basic issues of respect?
2. What does it say about us when we can’t tolerate other perspectives or accept the right of others to their own beliefs or to challenge our views without bitter remonstration? [But hold up, aren’t I being intolerant of other’s perspectives here? No. I’ve considered them, and I can still find no justification for their choices, Neither can the veterinary associations in BC, SK, MB, NB, NS, QB, and PEI. In NF and Labrador, there are provincial laws banning them!]
3. When asked for justification/logic of why dogs should be docked, I got these three:
It’s traditional. (Isn't tradition just a load of bollocks if it merely serves to engender cruelty?)
They’re livestock guardians. (Livestock guardians simply DON’T need docking. We have several , all undocked, and they’re fine.)
"I had a dog that had whiptail". (If you have one dog that has suffered whiptail, does that automatically mean that all others should be mutilated, just in case? Oh please. Get real!)
Are people becoming incapable of exercising logic in their thinking and subsequent behaviours? Don't they critique their own arguments before coming out with spurious rhetoric and empty justifications? And are we losing the capacity for caring and the ability to empathise with the perspectives of others - in this case, a dog's?
4. If this is none of my business (as so many told me, straight) doesn't that basically infer that we should all ignore what is wrong, if we see it? How does change come about then? If we are to coexist, even within our own species, how is it possible if we all keep our views to ourselves? And how may we become as tolerant as we need to be if we resort to hurling abuse at others when we are challenged?
5. Because of the page I was on, I know that hundreds of people must have seen the conversations. Yet only one person ‘liked’ my point of view. It was this that left me most disappointed and reflective, hence this blog. I don't mind the lack of support. That's fine. But I am quite certain there were those who saw what transpired who agreed with my perspective. Yet in all the dialogue that flew backwards and forwards, only one person was brave enough to 'like' my input, others probably fearing that they too would become the object of bullying assault. LOL. Social media really sucks!
So what would you have done? I guess not everyone is as impervious as I am to vilification. I guess most people prefer to not stick their heads above the parapet and risk the disapprobation of the masses. But when we see something that’s wrong, how is it ever going to change unless we draw attention to it?
I think situations like this cross our paths, if not daily, then regularly. Granted, you may not share my willingness to walk into a fight, and maybe in this case, you don’t see anything wrong at all. But when you do, will you ask yourself those timeless questions posed by Hillel?
“If not you, who? If not now, when?”
NB. The breeder did not declare that the dockings were done in Alberta. If they had been, this (to AB’s shame) would have been legal. But the breeder would have had to convey the whole litter 125 miles each way to get to a vet there. This was at no time used as a defence for her actions. Consequently, despite the refusal to name the vet, I reported the matter to the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association.
They have replied and are taking the matter very seriously, promising me that they will look into it.