The problem with tradition

March 15, 2019

Throughout human history you will find many traditions in which animals play an essential role. We tend to forget humans didn't always have tractors and cars to pull their loads and transport them further then our two inefficient legs can take us. maybe we need a bit of a reminder of where our traditions come from so we can better understand why and agree that most, if not all these traditions, should be regarded with doubt.


First of all let me tell you a bit about where I am coming from to this blog so you follow the train of thought that led me to this blog. There is a tradition of Bullfighting in Spain. It is still carried out in the name of tradition, even though no one seems to remember why it ever got started in the first place. No one seems to care that we can trace it back to the gladiator games in Rome, which in turn can be traced back to Ancient Greece (through the funeral rituals) and their penchant for competitive sport to please Zeus. Do we still need to please Zeus? Shouldn't traditions stop once they stop being useful or necessary?


Obviously, bullfighting is not the only tradition that puts animals in the crosshairs. Malta sports its own unnecessary animal tradition, of which advocates seem to forget the origin so here we go.





Hunting is what you do when you need food and don't have the commodity of supermarkets. Do we still need to hunt? There are many small cultures in remote places that need to hunt but we (Malta) does not need to. We are perfectly capable of putting food on the table without hunting. So much so that we don't even need to kills animals. Many find themselves perfectly fine and healthy going vegan. Of course your nutritional choices are for you to make but we definitely no longer need to hunt to have meat on our plates. I take issue with hunting because by our very own existence on this planet we already have removed many habitats where these animals can come and breed and restore their populations. The continuation of hunting purely to preserve tradition only makes sure that they can never restore their numbers, dooming them to extinction unless they can adapt to shoot back before that happens. When a bloody tradition becomes sports it has outlived its usefulness to humans and I would argue it is when it should be stopped.





Why on Earth do we still need to enslave horses to pull us around when we have cars for that? You find people who say "We need to protect karrozzini to preserve the tradition." What i hear is "We have a tradition for enslaving animals to do unnecessary jobs for no compensation and we'd like to keep it." Horse-drawn vehicles were necessary to travel in the past because that was the only way available at the time. It was not traqdition. Travel back in time and offer people in those days the possibility to use an engine that didn't need to be fed daily, tended to daily but can just sit there collecting dust, forgotten, until you need to use it. After you explain how it works so they'd stop thinking you're the devil, they would abandon their carriages for the car. We know becasue that is exactly what happened. We don't talk of horse traqffic when we discuss traffic, do we? No.


If there is a tradition for anything that should be sacred it should be dumping the old way for a new and better way.






Ever wondered what is the whole point of horse racing? I'm not asking why the tradition still exists. We know why it still exists. There are enough people who still want to do it. Why it got started in the first place is a whole other matter. There are two origins for horse racing. One of them you find a very good representation of in the movie Ben Hur. It was a peaceful way to show your opponent what your war chariots and horses can do. It easily made sure many battles were avoided and people didn't die in vain. We have a modern parallel that people a little older than me can remember. When Sputnik-1 became the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth during the cold war it was Russia's statement about their military capabilities. Sputnik wasn't the cute little harmless satellite you've been told it was. Sputnik was a hollowed out ballistic missile that Russia put into orbit after they learnt of the US plans to do the same. The race to space was about whose technology was the most capable for defeating the other if they ever shot each other. Given that we no longer use horse-drawn chariots to go to battle I've tried to look for another reason why horse-racing went on. As it turns out there were instances when fast horses where in demand to get messages or people across long distances fast. That was before the invention of the car and the airplain. Do we still need horses to be fast? NO. That is just another useless tradition that only exists for human entertainment which cannot justify the enslavement of animals anymore than we could ever justify human slavery.






Granted this is not a tradition in the same way other traditions are. "Folklore husbandry” is an emerging term describing the phenomenon of unevidenced, pseudoscientific, convenience-led habit and opinion handed down from one ill-informed animal keeper to the next. In other words when you ask an animal keeper "Why do you do that?" about how they look after animals, what they feed them, how they are housed ad they reply with "Because that's how it was always done," or "That's how I was taught to do it," or they provide you with an answer that is inconsistent with modern scientific understanding of animals, it is folklore husbandry. It ranges from rolling up newspapers to beat the dog up with if he pees in the house (totally abusive and unnecessary practice btw), through claiming some sort of dominance hierarchy in dogs, through keeping hoards of cats together, through  keeping turtles in small ponds and a whole list of horrors that would make any animal welfare and control officer outside Malta cringe before he slaps you with a fine or worse. Yet in Malta they let everything slide like it isn't happening, UNTIL a Puma shows up pacing nervously on someone's roof. Then you get uproar. So what about the dogs pacing from one end to the other of their kennel in many of Malta's shelters? Why is there no uproar on this? It's not because we don't empathize with dogs. Clearly that very same behavior in chained dogs drove many to lobby, successfully to ban dog tethering. I propose we are immune to nervous dogs and cats in animal shelters because we daren't challenge the institutions that house them. I dare challenge and I did challenge. It is because people like my colleagues and me challenged the folklore that was handed down by our predecessors, that MSPCA can boast having happier animals and higher rates of adoption. My second suspected reason is that we as a community all had a small or large part to play in why those animals ended up in shelter to begin with, but i know not everyone did so I defer you to my first reason.

Humans had a tradition of burning people alive. Humans had a tradition of human slavery. Humans had a tradition for women to be men's property. Do you hear anyone advocating their preservation for the sake of tradition? NO. Then why do we accept tradition being used to justify animal slavery and abuse?


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