Saturday, 16 February 2013

Animal Rights and Welfare in the (English Langauge) Taiwanese Media

This post has evolved into a record of animal-related issues covered in the Taiwanese media.

Not surprisingly for a Buddhist country with so much respect for vegetarianism, the Taiwanese media (especially the Taipei Times, my favourite news source) covers animal issues quite regularly. And what is particularly impressive is that even cruel traditions, such as "divine pigs" and stuffing live birds into statues of gods at temples, gets widespread criticism from within Taiwan. So many countries make advances for animals in general farming, but refuse to challenge their "traditions" on those grounds, such as fox hunting, whaling, the Taiji dolphin slaughter, the Farah Islands whale slaughter etc. While proponents of these barbaric "traditions" are of course reluctant to phase, I'm always impressed at how supportive the media and general public are, on issues across the continuum from religious rituals to stray animals.

Taiwan recently became the first Asian country (following the lead of the EU) to ban shark finning. From 2012 fishermen have been required to bring sharks back whole (fins attached).

These articles are mostly from the Taipei Times, my favourite and Taiwan's most widely-read English newspaper. While this is of course a biased sample of Taiwan's media, the Taipei Times is the sister newspaper of the Liberty Times, so they presumably run similar stories (and may note that they are direct translations).

Stuffing Live Birds into Statues of Deities (February 13, 2014)
I had never heard of this disgusting ritual, but fortunately it looks like the tide is turning against it, since the temple has apologised after a video of it was posted online.

New (minimum) Standards for Battery Hens (February 10, 2014)
For all the progress with vegetarianism and veganism in Taiwan, farm animals are far from the radar of most Taiwanese, because with such a high population density (especially in the urban areas), and so many people taking public transport between cities, and of course so much food imported, most people rarely even see farm animals. In New Zealand factory farms are generally hidden from the public, whereas in Taiwan I've seen many farms visible from the road (usually on scooter trips through the countryside) and from this I've found conditions to be better than in New Zealand. However, sadly it seems that these new government regulations are setting the first minimum area per bird, and it's similar to other developing countries (and well behind Europe) but it's pleasing to see the issue come to light and it be so positively reported.

Lawmakes Promote Vegetarianism (Feb 3, 2014)
It's not uncommon for politicians to promote vegetarianism (and, admittedly promote themselves to vegetarians in the process) but with such a deep political divide between the pro-unification-with-China Kuomintang and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party this is a great promotion to all, especially ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations, which for so many Taiwanese involve the consumption of so much meat.

Improved Funding for Shelters (January 20, 2014)
Shelter issues make quite frequent appearances, but here's a pleasing bit of news that shelters will see an increase in funding.

Editorial on Vegetarianism from The Guardian (Jan 10, 2014)
The Taipei Times has close ties with The Guardian, and often publishes its articles. I sometimes think of the Taipei Times as "The Guardian's North East Asia publication". Here they publish an excellent editorial on the environmental benefits of vegetarianism.

Vegetarians Live Longer (August 2013)
Here's an excellent bilingual piece on how vegetarians live longer.


Puppy Mills (March 4, 2013)
I find that often people are quick to criticise shelters (eg Peta) for euthanising abandoned, stray or otherwise homeless cats and dogs, but this article features the movement against the real cause: puppy mills.


Divine Pigs (February 16, 2013)
"Divine Pigs" are grossly overfed pigs, which have their throats cut at a temple and are then offered to gods - almost Taiwan's Foie Gras a la old-testament-style sacrifices. While this disgusting tradition is still practised in Taiwan, it's fortunately becoming less common and opinion appears to be turning against it. But what's most impressive here is that this article appeared as the lead story in today's Taipei Times.
This article from December is an interesting look at a former monk-gone-animal activist, and of EAST (Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan), one of Taiwan's leading animal protection groups.
This article features an ex-pig farmer gone vegetarian, who has turned his farm into a sanctuary. It did the rounds on social media around the world.

Vivisection Protest (February 15, 2012)
Animal rights groups protest vivisection of beagles at Taiwan's Institute of Nuclear Energy Research. The Taipei Times article was (as always) very supportive.

Peter Singer's Writing Features as Editorial (July 19, 2011)
The Taipei Times editorial often features interesting writing from around the world, and here they publish a piece by Peter Singer. While these may not exactly count as an editorial by the strict definition, it's important to remember that this English-language paper in a predominantly Chinese and Taiwanese-speaking country is essentially a service for foreigners and English-speakers worldwide to learn about Taiwan, so we can't expect original English-writings every day, so an endorsement of an opinion piece from another writer from around the world (including Taiwan) is a good alternative, and with features from the Guardian - especially Peter Singer - what's to complain about?


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