Bird flu blues: South Korea plans mass slaughter of dogs and cats
In an effort to combat the spread of an avian flu outbreak, South Korean officials have decided that an unspecified number of dogs and cats in the regions neighboring the virus’s source will have to be killed alongside 260,000 chickens. Pigs, too will be slaughtered (though they’ve garnered less press than their house pet cousins). See today`s Wall Street Journal (I can`t find an online reference).
Presumably, Korean officials will not be using the Chinese tool of choice—the club—in its efforts to stem the tide of avian flu. But who knows? I have to assume they’ll use whatever methods are most expedient—they’re not talking.
From our vantage point as Westerners and pet lovers the policy may seem cruel—especially given that household pets have been gaining in popularity in this part of the world. Sure, they still eat them as often as they use them for protection, but many more dogs and cats are simply loved and cared for—for their own sake—than are used to service the South Korean population.
The most egregious aspect of the plan? It’s not necessary. Veterinarians and other avian flu researchers outside the region have failed to find a reasonable scientific explanation for the dog and cat slaughter.
No more are cats and dogs potential carriers than are humans—unless said dogs and cats are actively eating feces-laden chicken carcasses. If stray cats and dogs commonly engage in this practice in South Korea perhaps their plan has some merit but I doubt it extends to the entire canine and feline populations.
The case seems more a reprisal of this summer’s dog massacre in the wake of a rabies outbreak in one of China’s provinces. Like China’s, South Korea’s extreme response seems more politically charged than scientifically motivated.
But let’s not get too comfortable on our high horses—not as long as our own pets are slaughtered by the millions each year because we don’t have the political will to address our own selfish practices. At least South Korea has the benefit of a cultural excuse: it hasn’t historically enjoyed the relationship with pets our country boasts.
We are right to condemn this pointless Korean policy, but let’s not forgive our own hypocrisy should we fail to see connections between their backwards policies and how pets are treated in our own backyards.