China, Confucius and Cats
Disciples of Confucius in Hanoi - Photo by dalbera (Flickr)
There is an interesting but disturbing story in the Times newspaper today (18th Oct 2011). It concerns the horror story of a 2 year old child, Yueyue, in Foshan, China. She crossed the road in a market area where there were market stalls and relatively slow moving traffic and plenty of pedestrians.
She was hit by a van. The van driver did not stop. She was hit by a second vehicle while lying on the road. The driver of this vehicle did not stop either. Eighteen (18) pedestrians walked by some within inches of her and ignored her. She had catastrophic injuries and lay in a coma.
Don't watch this unless you have a strong constitution. I can't watch it.
What was going on?
There is uproar in China. I am thankful for that. There is an acceptance in some quarters that something has gone wrong with Chinese society. Let me add right away that something has gone wrong with British society and western society too. I am not being critical of China but asking questions.
One theory for what appears like a break down in moral values, is the promotion by the government of traditional Confucian values. Confucian teachings encourage people to honor five relationships, the ruler and subject, father and son, elder and younger brother, husband and wife and friend and friend. Neighbors and pedestrians are cut out of this scenario. There is also corruption in the judiciary and other issues.
It is my contention that Confucian values which are centered around the human have a severely detrimental impact on the domestic and wild cat. Confucian philosophy does not advocate inhumane treatment of animals. In fact cruelty would be frowned upon. But the philosophy of Confucius does not concern itself with animals. They are very much secondary to the human. If animals need to be sacrificed for the purposes of the human, so be it. The animal is not defended or protected.
There are no animal protection or welfare laws in China. The South China tiger has been persecuted to extinction and the traditional medicine trade is killing off the Bengal tiger in nearby India, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Traditional Chinese medicine places a high value on the health benefit of ingesting tiger bone.
Domestic cats are killed for the cat meat trade in parts of China and Vietnam. The process is a kind of animal horror story similar to the story of Yueyue in its callousness.
Once again, let me say that I am not criticizing the Chinese culture. I am repeating what I have read. The Chinese themselves are going through some soul searching over the Yueyue incident in blogs. What the Chinese are saying is near the bone for the Chinese government. China suppresses free thought on internet blogs that are critical of the authorities.
In conclusion, I would argue that Confucianism is in part responsible for the gradual extinction of the Bengal tiger, the extinction of the South China tiger and the cruel treatment of the domestic and feral cat in parts Asia.
We need to be more humble and respect all animals. We are a part of nature.