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June 12, 2012: The killing of stray dogs in Ukrainep
Originally published by Harmon Abilene on "A Harmonious World"

As a person who feels empathy for all animals, I sometimes forget that many people out there feel almost no empathy. I recently stumbled across a forum where people were discussing the stray dog problem in Ukraine, and recent reports that thousands of stray dogs were killed in that country in preparation for the Euro 2012 soccer championship. To my surprise, most in the forum supported the killing of the stray dogs, stating, like many apologists do, that these dogs were no more than vermin, feral (and therefore dangerous) creatures that threaten people's health and safety. Many on the forum seemed to have more of a problem with the cruel methods used in killing these animals, and not that they were killed per se. Most posted that although sad, killing these dogs was a necessary thing to do.

Yes, the methods used to kill these dogs were draconian and cruel. Though far from being a "given", many will agree to that. But methods aside, the killing of these dogs, in and of itself, is wrong. First and foremost, from a moral point of view, stray dogs, feral or not, want to live as much as we do, - they are intelligent, innocent, sentient beings. They feel joy, they suffer, they feel pain. The simple fact that someone fails to recognize this shows a disturbing lack of respect for the lives of these dogs. Moreover, the lack of compassion evident in some of the posts is the same lack of compassion responsible for many of the dogs' being on the street in the first place. If people empathized more with these creatures, they would not have abandoned them, and the problem would have been much easier to control. Unfortunately, as is often the case, bad habits led to other bad habits Ė creating an extremely negative situation. To think that by killing thousands of stray dogs, the problem will go away forever is extremely naive. If people in a certain area are used to abandoning their dogs, and no programs exist to sterilize stray animals, the problem will reappear again shortly. The way to end the cycle is to educate people to not abandon their pets, to create and enforce laws that will punish people for abandoning their pets, and to start sterilization programs that will gradually lower the numbers of street animals. For feral animals, there should be special shelters set up where we can try to retrain these animals.

Some people think that the methods that I described are too extreme, too difficult to implement, or too expensive. First, I believe that an extreme point of view is one that justifies violence and killing, not one that attempts to minimize it. Although often accepted, the opinion that itís all right to just kill thousands of animals is something that all true animal lovers should view as "extreme". Second, I believe that good deeds should not be put off just because they're "hard to do". You shouldn't do the wrong thing just because it's easier than doing the right thing. Something is either morally acceptable or morally unacceptable. If something is morally unacceptable, such as the cruel methods of killing the dogs in Ukraine, it doesn't matter how "easy" it is, it is simply not to be done. Third, I believe that economic reasons should not be used to justify such killing. The lives of these creatures are worth more than a saving of a couple thousand dollars, Euros, or in this case, hryvnias. Some would say that what I suggest here is simply economically impossible to do. If one examines the economics of the situation in Ukraine, one begins to see the holes in that argument. There is money in Ukraine to build new stadiums, new infrastructure, and even incinerators (!) for dogs, but there is no money to build humane shelters and start sterilization programs? This is a clear case of twisted priorities and a clear case of society as a whole not being advanced enough to deal with this problem in a compassionate way.

So what about the packs of roaming, aggressive dogs that threaten the safety of the citizens (many of whom, like I stated above, are responsible for the dogs being there in the first place)? This problem does exist in some countries, but I have travelled extensively in Romania, Ukraine, Mexico, and other countries with large populations of stray dogs, and have seen very little aggression in these animals. In a way itís understandable that the apologists for mass killing use this argument. By making these strays out to be crazed, rabid creatures, it makes it easier to morally justify their extermination. Like I said though, for the most part these are not aggressive animals, but lost and suffering dogs that roam cities looking for scraps to eat, cities whose inhabitants often treat them with disdain and hate. Until there is a new way of perceiving the problem, there will be no progress. Until a more positive, empathetic approach is adopted, using the steps Iíve outlined above, the cycle of death and suffering in these types of societies will continue. Back to EFFAblog index

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