When I was at a conference in Chicago where the topic was Anthrozoology and other aspects of the human-animal bond was premiered, I became acquainted with a young UK researcher who had spent 2 years in South Korea, studying the Asian relationship of humans to animals. His presentation was called, The Seoul of Dogs and Cats. It was not a pleasant topic, and his findings where, frankly, to me, disgusting and discouraging.
Four years later, I was hosting a group of South Korean students at my farm for an American perspective on ecology. Most students were charming, delighted by the animals, and adventurous. One female student, however, was deeply traumatised. The idea of handling even a day old chick, nearly sent her into convulsions. This was such an extreme and dramatic response, that the South Korean professor in charge of this field trip had to confine her to the bus they had arrived in. The student was content with this, and watched through the bus windows while her fellow students learned that turkeys are kind of fun and that cats can have a purpose other than as a ‘tiger’ soup, a traditional South Korean cat meat dish. The long and short of this is, most of the Asian students were delighted, and yes, very suprised, by westerners relationships with animals.
Time change, things change, cultures grow and contract, much like waves upon the shores, but with a much longer time span. Western culture has not always gotten it right, but we have the writings of the Romantic period in western literature that points the way to a different relationship with nature and animals over 300 years ago.
Let us westerners make it a point of pride to continue this tradition and be a light towards a new understanding of the human-animal bond, throughout the world. Harkening back to the student who was terrified of holding a one day old chick…her parents had taught her that all animals were filthy and carriers of disease.
We westerners are great at destroying the planet through climate change, all the while pampering our dogs and cats in a way that might seem obscene to other cultures. And pampering livestock the way I do, well I guess you can imagine the way many humans on this overcrowded planet would view that!
But don’t just take my word for it, check out this very cute, yet still much to the point article of relationship with nature change, on the Asian transition where the human animal bond is concerned. And do remember to be kind and compassionate in all things. We are all in this together, and the current disease epidemic has illustrated that ruthlessly.