Barbarism Towards Animals: Chinese, Japanese, & Australians

Maru, famous Japanese cat.

The Chinese, as “a people”, are often categorically denounced by foreigners for their “barbarism” toward animals. If it’s not about eating dog meat, it’s about caged cats being transported to Guangdong to be eaten. The whole dog meat thing implicates the Koreans as well, and the Japanese, purveyors of all that is cute and cuddly in this world, catch some flak too when it comes to whaling expeditions and herding dolphins into coves to be speared, both of which are also then eaten.

We already know that inhumane treatment towards animals is hardly limited to the Chinese or East Asians. Likewise, for differences over what animals can be man’s dinner. Of course, this doesn’t stop some people from indulging their prejudices to think otherwise, in their fits of apoplectic disgust and subsequent ethnocentric anger. That’s life.

Yet, it is because of such reliable absurdity that it brings me no small pleasure reading about the Japanese going tit-for-tat over recent news of Australian plans to cull millions of stray cats. Via Sankaku Complex (warning: website also contains adult material):

Japanese are aghast at Australian plans to kill millions of stray cats, with many perplexed at how a nation which sanctimoniously lectures them at every opportunity about their whaling and tacitly supports eco-terrorism can simultaneously destroy millions of lovable felines.

Australia’s Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre is reportedly testing a system of poison traps designed to kill cats by “exploiting their natural curiosity.”

The trap uses light and sound to lure cats in to investigate, and once they have entered the trap a sensor attempts to determine whether they are a cat, and if so the trap delivers a dose of fatal poison. Cats are said to be uninterested in traditional traps, requiring a cat-specific lure playing upon their investigative nature.

In a macabre pun the system is dubbed “Curiosity.”

Australia is estimated to have a population of 18 million stray cats, which frequently prey upon Australia’s often times pathetically fragile native species.

Are you loving the prose yet? How’s the misleading vividness going down for you?

Some translated Japanese netizen reactions were also included:

“As expected of the Aussies. They fall over themselves to protect whales but abuse other species; this level of opportunism… it’s truly shameless.”

“Please don’t kill those lovable little cats! Cats are even more sensitive than whales. Please don’t kill them just for the sake of keeping their numbers down!”

“Australians are so crude!”

“What have Sea Shepherd to say about this? Nothing, because there’s no money in it for them?”

“I think Australia is justified in killing these cats, and Japan is also justified in killing whales. However, Australia has no right to be criticising Japan.”

“We’ve got to launch attacks on Australia to stop the slaughter of these poor cats!”

What do you think?

The Japanese have a point here? Could a Japanese attachment to felines (if such a thing could be said to exist) be equated with an attachment to whales and dolphins? Thus justifying any disgust and contempt the Australians consequently have coming their way?


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  1. Whilst there may be a point: I’d hate to see it being used as justification for offing Odontoceti and Mysticeti!

  2. Lilian

    Could a Japanese attachment to felines (if such a thing could be said to exist) be equated with an attachment to whales and dolphins?

    Guess it could, but that’s not really the point when you talk animal rights is it? Opposing mistreatment of animals isn’t related to the animal’s degree of cuteness, or the degree of people’s attachment to it.
    Japanese and other Fenqings can rage all they want but two wrongs don’t make a right, ever.

    • No, opposing mistreatment of animals isn’t related to the animal’s degree of cuteness or the degree of people’s attachment to it, but how vocally (if at all) people oppose mistreatment of certain animals is. There’s principle, and then there is application.

      I’m not really sure where fenqings fit in this discussion and why you’ve lumped the Japanese together with them. Is anyone here saying two wrongs make a right?

  3. William

    It’s kind of hard to ignore the point that whales are endangered, while cats are not. Is the empathetic reaction equivalent? Sounds like it. Are empathetic reactions a good basis for conservation policies? No.

    Also, has PETA’s sea kittens campaign reached Japan?

    • This is where I think the debate gets a bit nuanced. I’m mostly pointing out the parallels of the narrative between Japan and “Western” anti-whaling groups with a lot of the things that involve the Chinese but to play devil’s advocate, the Japanese maintain that the whales they catch are few, not endangered, and have stable populations. There are, of course, other arguments.

  4. shidawei

    Felines are domesticated animals that overproduce.

    Whales are ‘wild’ animals that often under-produce.

    Japan: word up. Australia: deport your ‘creepy old cat ladies.’

    Problem solved.

  5. yangrouchuan

    Well, the Chinese kill anything, even if they don’t beat it, and I’m talking about the random PSB pet culls where thugs/local cops actually go after pets with homes, often beating the animal to death in front of the family and neighbors, kids included.

    The Japanese seem to have one on the Aussies, but still fall short. Whales and dolphins are at least at simian intelligence levels. Perhaps some Japanese living Australia could drive around looking for and rounding up the traps.

    Or the Australian gov’t could mandate the sterilization of all cats in shops and human societies.

    It just goes to show how much more advanced the North American and EU mentality is towards animals.


  6. As far as I have understood the aussie’s side on this, there is an ecological need for intervention. On the mainland, stray cats have probably contributed to the extinction of many small to medium sized mammals and ground-nesting birds in the arid zone, and seriously affected bilby, mala and numbat populations. In some instances, feral cats
    have directly threatened the success of recovery
    programs for endangered species. They carry infectious diseases such as toxoplasmosis
    and sarcosporidiosis, which can be transmitted to native animals, domestic livestock and humans.

    If on the other hand culinary appetite counts as an equally substantial argument to justify parasitism, the japanese have every right to raise their brows and keep on killing their wales. The only problem is, the wales or the dolphins are not theirs. They are often being hunted in international (lawless) waters. Therefore they belong to all of us, or nobody at all.

    • Interesting lines drawn. I like it. We need some Japanese whaling defenders to come contribute to this discussion. It’d be interesting to see how it plays out.

  7. I have never understood what is the difference between eating cats and dogs, and eating cows. When you get crazies like old Brigitte Bardot all over the place because the Cantonese eat cats or the Koreans dogs, I wonder if they have anything in their heads.

    On the other hand, the whales is a completely different problem. Those Japanese forums should Stoofoo and listen to reason, because it is not about killing individuals there, but about destroying a whole species.

  8. Jones

    I think it needs to be put into perspective. Humans kill animals in every country. I’m an avid hunter. Of course, I follow the rules, which are pretty strict and come with some pretty heavy consequences if you break them (and get caught, which happens more often than you’d think).

    The whale hunting thing isn’t something I’m well-read on. I would assume the protests have something to do with the rarity of the animals. If that’s so, the Japanese are missing the point. Australia’s plans to cull the stray cats is for that exact opposite reason (not to say the Japanese after whales because they’re rare). There’s too many of them and they are damaging the natural ecosystem.

    House cats aren’t native to a lot of these places. There’s a ton of examples about how a non-native species can wreak havoc on a local habitat. My own home-grown example would be fire ants. They aren’t native to Northeast Texas (or possibly the entire US). Once they managed to arrive, they spread like wildfire (pun intended). The result was that several species, namely the Quail, disappeared or became very rare. Quail spend a lot of their time on the ground, and their nests are on the ground.

    As for eating cats or dogs in China, I have no problem with that. I tried dog when I was there, and I’d have tried cat if I had found it served. But when it comes to eating a part of an animal, especially a rare one, just purely for the ridiculous “medicinal qualities” (read: penis betterment) that someone thinks it has…there’s no way I could justify that.

  9. King Tubby

    I must admit to being caught on the hop re: Australia’s Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre. Highly professional website which is worth a look if you are into serious background. Here we draw a distinct line between domestic animals (govt registered, tagged and microchipped) and feral critters. This proposed psych op cage devise sounds like a joke: only the Australian Federal govt would be silly enough to fund “creative” research like this.
    Living in a rural block, let me assure you (in contrast to the cuddly moggie above), feral cats are extremely large vicious critters (up there with wolverines) which which would rip ya knees caps off. (Ditto wild dogs which cruise the neighbourhood during the witching hour.) Concerned cat lovers in Japan should establish an unloved feline adoption program as a humane alternative: I would willingly pay the delivery costs and can see the headlines now. Mutated Felis Domesticus Terrorises Tokyo: Salarymen go home early.

  10. friendo

    Breaking news, whites act in hypocritical fashion

  11. Mike

    The Australians are not killing Japanese cats. The Japanese though are killing Australian whales.

  12. David

    I have a question in relation to this story and I’d be happy if someone could give me a definite answer. I live near Osaka and a while ago I noticed that the stray cats in my area had all but disappeared. This was surprising as I live near a famous temple and the large stray cat population is well known. I asked around if anyone knew what was happening but only got some vague answers that the local council was trying to reduce the number of strays. The other day though a woman told me that the government has initiated a nation-wide campaign to eliminate all stray cats. She also told me that she signed an on-line petition opposing this policy. Does anyone know about this story?