Travel theme: Animals – different cultures

It doesn’t matter where we live in the world, but our environment and culture invariably shape our views and behaviour.

Unless we want to stand out from the norm for being ‘strange’ or ‘eccentric’ we tend to fit in with local expectations of conventional behaviour.

While I’ve travelled and lived in Europe, Asia, North Africa and Australasia, I’ll stick to the two countries where I have spent the most time.

This isn’t to point out the rights and wrongs of (anti) vivisection, hunting, shooting and fishing, vegetarianism etc. Nor is it a post about buying from breeders versus rescue animals.

It is simply about how people treat the animals they live with, own, buy, sell, control – whatever words you choose to use. Originally, the idea for the this post was inspired by a blogger from New Zealand who had been shocked to see someone in a car taking their dogs for a run behind the car. And yes, we have seen that in Spain too. But as it fits with the animal travel theme week, it seems an appropriate time to publish this long overdue post.

Starting with the UK. When I was a kid there were dog licences at ten shillings a year or whatever it was. Eventually it was abolished, allegedly because it cost more to administrate than the income received.

Back then, it was the time when – amongst other things – council estates were characterised by packs of dogs, stray or otherwise, roaming around the streets. Later when I became a newspaper reporter, I remember sitting in council meetings when the topic of appointing dog wardens to round up those poor homeless animals seemed to be the most important item on the agenda. Moreso than the budget, or homeless people, or social services provision.

I suppose the appointment of dog wardens did some good, because one of the dogs we rescued had been picked up on the street and taken to a local shelter in the north-east. Twice.

It was while we were living there that we started to hear about the animal police. You know the ones, they may not have an animal of their own, but they sure as hell have the only view in the world about the correct way to home and treat animals.

Apparently, the previous owner before our set of neighbours on the one side used to leave her dog outside all day while she went to work. Not surprisingly it barked. ‘Terrible,’ said all the neighbours to us after we had moved in. {Said dog owner had moved by then so we never met her or the dog). What was terrible? Leaving the dog outside and going to work? Or the dog barking and getting on the nerves of people who were at home all day?

She probably wanted to avoid the typical incidents some of our friends were greeted with on their return from work – invariably a different part of the kitchen torn to shreds. We did point out that leaving a dog locked in a small kitchen may well encourage destructive behaviour when a young dog was bored.

But it is so easy to start judging how other people treat their animals. And before you know it, the RSPCA descend, tipped off by an anonymous caller.

That’s what happened to one work colleague who had at least half a dozen dogs, one or two of which often went to work with him, as he was a driver. They’d won prizes for agility or something similar, they were some type of terrier as I remember. The dogs I saw seemed perfectly OK, friendly, well-fed, and alert. He was taken to court and banned from keeping dogs for whatever period of time. Were his dogs really that badly looked after? Not the ones I saw.

Another colleague had two dogs kept outside in a run during the day, but allowed inside the house (and on sofas, beds) when they were at home. One day at the beach, one of her dogs ran off and was killed on the road. Bad luck? Or an irresponsible owner? Who’s to say. The same person is now a registered breeder and exhibits at Crufts.

While that was an isolated incident in my dog circles in the UK, on moving to Spain I learned that dogs get killed on the road all the time. This is because dogs get let out of the front gate to walk themselves around the street. These are the lucky ones. Others are kept chained up all day, every day and don’t go anywhere. Many are fed on a diet of stale bread and water.

But oddly enough in Spain, people will feed stray dogs. They don’t take them in, but they will throw out some bread for them. (Spaniards think animals live on bread). One of my neighbours (some years ago when people had more money) said she left scraps of cured ham for strays. Back then, the bars would throw out the whole back leg of a pig, often with ham left on too, and the packs of street dogs would happily fight over this prize. It wasn’t unusual to see a tiny little dog dragging a huge jamon up the street, that was bigger than the dog.

One of our neighbours feeds and takes in stray dogs and cats. But like everyone else, although she fed our current dog, she wouldn’t take him in. He was too big so no-one wanted him.

Dogs are swapped, stolen, given away, neither spayed nor neutered, not chipped or registered with the Junta de Andalucía both of which are a legal requirement. The other week, my partner met a British woman with a muzzled boxer – apparently there is some new (local?) rule that says dogs over 30kg should be muzzled. That is just crass.

What about horses? Andalucía – known for its beautiful horses and pretentious dressage. And yet, you can also see skinny, no, emaciated horses throughout the communidad. Although not a patch on the wicked horse-slashing that seemed to be fashionable in the 90s in the UK.

Donkeys are used and abused. Horrible donkey taxis. And I have seen some struggling to walk because they are carrying such heavy loads.

One of the worst incidents we have ever seen was a horse thrown out to die in the local stream. He started off by standing up but later just lay in the water. Some sick bastards thought it would be fun to kick him but sadly for them, Partner was walking past and told them he would smack them if they went anywhere near the horse. Yes, there was only one of him and a couple of them. One thought he was joking. The other realised he wasn’t.

It was left to two British women to call out a vet to have the horse euthanased. They paid the bill. He wasn’t their horse and rumour had it (by the brand) that he came from a rather prestigious finca owned by wealthy people who wouldn’t pay a vet to come and put down a horse dying of cancer.

We hadn’t been in our new Spanish home a month when someone threw a tiny puppy out of a car next to our house. So tiny its eyes weren’t open. Everyone who has researched living abroad hears the stories of animals being tied up outside the gates of foreigners’ homes, mainly northern Europeans who are perceived to be a) rich and b) sentimental about animals. I had visions of an endless stream of puppies being chucked out next to our house if we took this one in. We don’t even have any ground 😦

Everyone ignored the tiny puppy. My neighbour and I shut ourselves in so we couldn’t hear its piteous whimpering. It staggered blindly across the road and slept against the finca wall where there were lots of other dogs (and horses and chickens). It died in the heat of the sun. The finca groundsman came out with a shovel and chucked it in the big rubbish bin.

Ten years later, things have changed slightly. More people walk their dogs on leads. At one point we were the only ones in our street who did that. That may also explain why all our dog-owning neighbours except for one have had dogs killed on the road. (Theirs stayed in the garden).

But apart from the new appearance of dogs on leads, little else has changed. Dogs are still chained up, alone for the best part of the day and night – and these are pack animals. They are seen as nothing more than a commodity to guard the property as they are cheaper than a burglar alarm. People still drive to the bar and back on a Sunday in their pony and trap contraptions with horses wearing blinkers and being whipped. No doubt at the next whelping period, there will be more dumped stray dogs.

I can’t write about Spain without mentioning bull-fighting. It is brutal, barbarous, one-sided, totally unfair and full of abhorrent machismo. The poor bull gets stabbed with tiny spikes to weaken him before the matador gets the opportunity to finish it off in a blaze of glory (the matador’s glory, not the bull’s).

If you want to fight ie kill, bulls – or any other animal – it should be on equal terms and not fix the fight for so-called entertainment and money. Either put a defenceless matador in the ring with the bull, or stick the man full of spikes first. He still doesn’t get a weapon though.

It is on a par with dog-fighting, cock-fighting, badger-baiting and hunting animals on safari.

What sort of a sad society are we that we take pleasure in viciously killing other animals – and even worse, paying to watch it happen for entertainment? Just because it is traditional doesn’t mean it is a good thing.

And to end on a good note, the dog in the Philippines with the slashed face has had surgery and appears to be recovering.

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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18 Responses to Travel theme: Animals – different cultures

  1. Vicky says:

    An excellent post, about the one thing closer to my heart than anything else.

    There are plenty of folk who say ‘oh yes, I’m an animal lover’ , but then continue breeding surplus puppies, enjoy watching horse and dog racing, don’t see anything wrong with fox hunting etc……..the list goes on. Until those folk stop exploiting animals for their own pleasure or gain, how can they call themselves animal lovers?


    • Thank you Vicky. What I wanted to try and express was the very different perceptions of our attitudes towards animals, it’s extreme enough in our own country (UK), and once you start looking at other cultures, it’s even more diverse.

      My personal views are that:
      1) I don’t see why animals should be used as entertainment for brain dead people.
      2) I certainly don’t see why they should be abused and killed.
      3) I wouldn’t even call myself an animal lover – it sounds so trite. But I do think they deserve respect and an opportunity to have a life, just like people. I’m not into speciesism, which was a clever word one of my reporter colleagues introduced me to. It’s a good one though and not used enough – and sums up your last comment.


  2. That’s why I think the dog licence is a good thing. Obviously it should be a lot more than .50p, not just to cover administrative costs but to make sure only people who are aware of their responsibilities keep dogs. Running a dog behind a car is a terrible thing! In December 2000 I was driving home from work along a country lane, it was misty and there was a car driving slowly towards me. I slowed down but not enough to avoid the dog that was running alongside the car because they couldn’t be bothered to walk it properly. Unfortunately the dog died and my car cost £500 to repair.
    Bullfighting seems barbaric and unfair but then I am not Spanish so feel unqualified to comment. Probably wouldn’t be allowed in the UK – Bear bating, cock fighting and dog fighting was outlawed in the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 but it took another 180 years to extend the no cruelty courtesy to foxes!


    • Why is the dog licence a good thing?

      How about cat licences? rabbit licences? horse and donkey licences? tropical fish licences?

      Not everyone suffers from cynophobia.

      Sorry your car cost £500 to repair. It was probably on insurance although could have affected the NCD 😦 Unless it was protected NCD.

      Why on earth do you need to be Spanish to comment on bull-fighting? That’s like people who move to the Lake District and comment about nuclear power. They don’t come from Cumbria so they shouldn’t criticise what’s happening there.

      Saying you aren’t Spanish so can’t comment is really passing the buck. Does that mean you don’t comment on American politics in Afghanistan? Or anything outside of where you live?

      As for the so-called no-hunting – it’s hardly enforced is it?


      • Andrew Petcher says:

        I wasn’t trolling!
        I was genuinely sorry about the poor dog, I was angry with the owners for being foolish. I think I paid for the repairs without an insurance claim.
        Obviously I can comment on bullfighting but it from an outsider’s perspective. I have no idea why it is so important to them. I don’t think it is right, it is just that I am not part of the debate.
        Enforcement! Neither is trapping wild birds in Cyprus.


        • I didn’t for a minute think you were.

          Vicky did make some great points about licences v chipping. When we first got our dog he was unchipped (obviously having been chucked out on the street) so we took him to the vet to get him chipped and registered and jabbed and passported. He’s a big dog, but even he flinched when the chip got jabbed in his left shoulder 😦 Do hope it doesn’t come in for people in my lifetime 😀

          I don’t think bull-fighting is that complex. It is and has always been controversial, even one of the popes banned it at one point. It’s like any national tradition, some people want to hang onto it just because it is seen to embody national characteristics.

          It’s also seen as being linked with right wing parties, specifically Franco. And although there was a ban on televised bullfighting under the socialist government under Zapatero, it’s been lifted under the quasi-fascist government of Rajoy (and you thought Thatcher was bad!).

          Catalunya and the Canaries have banned it. Interestingly both Islam and Judaism forbid it too on grounds of animal cruelty. Good old Christianity and specifically Catholicism doesn’t give a shit though. It even gets grants from the EU as a cultural activity.

          You might not consider you are part of the debate but I did see some posts on your blog, I think, about bullfights didn’t I?

          Is trapping wild birds in Cyprus (and Greece) illegal? Honest question as I have no idea although know of the practice. Birds nesting wasn’t exactly policed either was it? And that’s probably my underlying point. We just don’t treat animals with any respect.


    • Vicky says:

      I really don’t see the point in a dog licence, for whatever cost. The only folk would get one, would be the honest folk. The ones who chuck their dogs out without a collar cannot be traced fom a licence, and I doubt the dog would carry it in his paws ‘hey, I’m lost, but these are my owners’
      Now micro chipping is a different thing altogether, all puppies should be chipped by law, initially registering them to the breeder, who then notifies the authorities of change of owner as and when. If a dog is later sold on, the responsibility of the change of details, should belong to the seller, not the buyer.
      The actual cost of chipping is minimal, but if there was a set fee, it would hopefully deter the greedy breeders, and also make them more responsible about who they sold the pups to as well.
      The fee would go towards employing more dog wardens, who along with the police would be given the right to do an on the spot scan of any dog they see, and any person with an un-chipped dogs should then incure a fine.
      Stray dogs without chips, would obviously end up in rescue centres, but that’s happening anyway. Stray chipped dogs that end up in centres, should be the responsibility of the last registered owner, and a fine incurred there too.

      I would hope the owners of the poor dog in that tragic accident paid for your repair, you were quite within your rights to sue them. Such a shame a dog had to lose its life because of their stupidity.:-(


      • Andrew Petcher says:

        I agree with everything you say. As for the owners of the dog they were upset enough without me chasing them for money. They were stupid – I hope they learnt from their mistake.


  3. ailsapm says:

    Great points you raise, and this tragic treatment of animals is rife everywhere. In New York, horses pull tourist-filled carriages along the busy streets in and around Central Park, breathing in exhaust fumes. Every year horses are killed in collisions with vehicles and still the tourists flock and keep the carriage owners in business. Were you following the Lennox Lewis story? I wrote about my disgust on my other site

    Your story of the horse is horrific, reminds me of something that happened in Washington State 20 years ago where three boys beat and strangled a donkey to death. The animal sanctuary Pasado’s Safe Haven was borne to commemorate the donkey, but the boys who murdered him were tried and charged with – wait for it – breaking and entering – because it carried a heavier penalty than beating an animal to death.

    Thanks for taking the time to join in this week’s theme and for such a thought-provoking post; it was my hope that by highlighting World Animal Day and encouraging people to photograph animals it would cause them to truly look at animals, in the eye, and see them for the wonderful, sentient beings that they are.


    • Thank you for reading Ailsa, given the amount of people who have taken part in your week long travel theme about animals.

      I do write about animals from time to time, but don’t want to do overkill on my blog as I know people switch off easily. Usually my photos are of my dog and the macaques.

      In Málaga, there are horse drawn carriages, and similarly in Sevilla. I had no idea they were in New York!! although I guess there are more fumes there than in Andalucían cities.

      I hadn’t seen the Lennox story but did take a quick glance at your other site, looked like a sad story, but I’ll take another look tomorrow when I can get my head around it.

      How can anyone want to harm a donkey FFS? If you have to choose one of the most gentle animals in the world they have to be a prime contender. qv my pic on everypic

      which I couldn’t resist as an opportunity to share with people.

      The theory about property versus life has always been contentious. It says a lot about our – lack of – values as people.

      I didn’t intend to de-rail your theme – but you said it could be about any aspect of ‘animals’. It is all too easy to post a cute pic and ignore what goes on around us, so I wanted to post a variety of aspects and your theme gave me that opportunity.

      I’ll be back to check out both your blogs later. Thanks for the visit and the thoughtful comment.


      • ailsapm says:

        No worries, my regular readers know my love of animals, there have been similar entries too – including a very sad one about the rhino poaching epidemic from a reader in South Africa. I know all too well that switch-off mode, which is why I generally don’t go off too much – but the Lennox case incensed me so much I couldn’t not write about it – but I did that on my wildlife/nature blog – like you I am a multi-blogger ::) but have so far managed to confine myself to just the two!


        • I think the one I went ballistic about was King Juan Carlos of Spain:

          Interestingly, it did get quite a few comments, and at one point, was my most-read post. Maybe best to write about rich royals if you want to get attention for animal cruelty?

          I glanced at the end of your Lennox story. I knew it wasn’t destined to have a happy ending. I’ll try and find the rhino one on your blog links, the piccy ones are nice, but I appreciate the people who take the time to write thoughtful posts, the trouble is, it’s not obvious from the links or the titles. I guess you could always do a follow-up post summary about the written ones?


  4. EllaDee says:

    Why do people do the wrong thing to each other, children, animals? It’s just as easy to do the right thing. I read your post shaking my head in a combined too much of this is happening vs for every neglected / mistreated / ignored / abused etc animal situation there are well looked after/pampered animals… and lack of understanding because none of it makes any sense. I’ve heard people say things like “people spend too much money on their dogs when there are starving children…” At the same time animals are treated like, well animals… like they have no souls and feelings but anyone who has had anything to do with animals knows that’s just not true. They grace us with their presence in this world, and we should be ashamed.


    • Search me, EllaDee.

      What a well articulated comment though.

      Actually, people spend too much money on themselves, let alone pampered dogs/cats/whatever. I just think animals should be left alone, and if you share your life with one or more, then you treat it with respect.

      But as people don’t respect each other, why on earth would we respect animals? What a sorry species we are. I’m sad to say that, but I honestly can’t get away from that.

      Isn’t there some famous quote about the way you treat animals is a mark of society? I’m sure you’ll know it 😀


      • EllaDee says:

        I just remembered to look this up… what I remember is usually the germ of a quote, lyric or excerpt from a book, I then consult Google for the rest… I thought the words you were referring to might have been from the Bible but according to :
        This has been stated in several ways for over 100 years by various indiviuals, including (but not limited to) Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Dostoyevsky, Truman, etc.
        Very recently by Cardinal Roger Mahony (1998):
        “Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members ; the last, the least, the littlest.”
        And perhaps most dubiously attributed to Ghandi:
        “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. ”
        The original author of this quotation seems to have been lost.


  5. Sunny says:

    That was hard to read. Like lots of things I already read, and like things I subject my friends to on Facebook all the time. I’m sure they think I’m crazy based on what I post. It’s all really hard to read, but it’s harder on the poor animals. I love Spain so much but oh my goodness, I HATE some of the attitudes there regarding animals, especially la corrida. Despicable practice. But so is tossing out puppies and kittens and the like. Thanks for writing.


    • Sorry Sunny. It really came out of a blog post from years ago and I think there was then a discussion on FB. I always said I would write a post, but by the time I did I had left FB!

      Of course, as soon as you register with like-minded people on FB you end up seeing thousands of dogs/cats who need a home and all sorts of tales of animal abuse. The only good side to that is that I have heard stories of people who have rehomed rescue animals via FB.

      I think la corrida is disgusting. Apart from anything else it’s not even a fair fight! TAlk about macho symbolism by degrading a proud beast who doesn’t even need to be prancing around in the ring (unlike the bullfighter).

      We can all only home so many rescue pups/kittens/dogs/cats at once. Believe me, if I had space and money, there would be more, but I know other people would do the same, we are all subject to constraints – ie financial ones.

      Thank you for following the link and reading.


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