Sunday, 6 January 2008

Vegetarianism & Cruelty To Animals

As you can imagine, during 7 hours of réveillon eating and drinking, lots of conversations took place. And very interesting they all were.

We also ate a diverse selection of meat and vegetable dishes. But it was curious to note that most had been shot, caught or picked locally from the wild. There was no pork, beef or lamb at all - these animals are not farmed down here (because the climate is not suitable for them?). We ate what were natural resources in this area.

Locals do not tend to buy meat that has been farmed a long way away or has travelled far after slaughter.

What they eat tends to be local. Local farmers/producers, local abattoirs and what they hunt or find themselves. To them, that is healthy and correct.

We are still bemused when choosing a chicken at the supermarket, to be able to select one that was running around in a field visible from the car (when we drive to Beziers) only about 15 minutes from here - and which was slaughtered at the abattoir in the next village to the farm! We could even find out who 'did the deed' if we particularly wanted too I am sure!
It is true. Vegetarianism is a concept that our French friends down here are bemused and confused about. They see animals as a natural food source. Why would you not eat them?!

They are as equally bemused and confused by animal cruelty. It is not a concept they condone or actually compehend. They consider that everyone has a responsibility to everything else - and that includes animals. They are not sentimental in the English sense, but they would NEVER consider cruelty as even vaguely justified, nor would ever 'ignore' it.

Animals might be a natural food source - but, as far as they are concerned, you have a responsibility to respect them and dispatch them in the most efficient and humanitarian way possible. They are never loath to speak out against cruelty and, more importantly, do something about it.

A couple moved into our village and soon after the man was seen kicking out at his dog. The person who saw it went over and had a chat with the man about it straight away.
Last year a family moved in to our village who gradually aquired several horses. Everyone in the village was worried about whether the animals were being looked after well enough. A 'friend of a friend' who knows horses was asked to come and have a quick look at them - the villagers would not consider just 'talking' about maybe doing something - they act on it!
Flora and fauna are looked after down here - there are whole battalions of people paid by the State to do just that. The wildlife is 'cared' for. You might find this an anomaly given that most of the wildlife then gets 'hunted' for eating purposes, but it is not. It is all very logical when you put aside your sentimentality for a moment and consider it unemotionally.

Every year, the state of the local flora and fauna is reported on, and decisions made on the quotas allowed for the coming year for the hunting of the animals. Also noted is the state of the wild plants (eg leeks, asparagus, mushrooms and orchids).

If it has been a bad year for a given wild vegetable, the locals automatically know not to over-crop in the coming year. The same with the animals. If the wild boar numbers are down, they would not dream of over-hunting them. To them this is just commonsense. You 'look after' your natural resource, not decimate it!

Again, a concept that seems to have disappeared from our consciousness perhaps.

Here, the next generation is being 'taught' these concepts at their mothers' (or fathers'!) knees. It is the way of life down here.
English incomers usually have a problem with the hunting dogs - kept in purpose built kennels. As far as they are concerned this is cruelty - if you have a dog, it should be in the house and treated as a pet.

But in real terms, where is the cruelty? They are pack animals and are in the kennels as a group. The hunting dogs get first class vetinarian care (no expense spared!) because they have a serious value down here and you look after your resources. They are fed and watered regularly each day and the kennels are kept very clean - again, you do not put at risk your resources.

I know that I too have a deep rooted feeling that 'it is wrong' but in reality cannot pinpoint factual reasons for this. Like many others, I still think of dogs as pets I suppose! I am not overly sentimental where animals are concerned though (compared with others) and so I respect the differences down here and indeed applaud them in many cases.

Stray dogs appear in our village from time to time.

Someone will check their ears/inner-thighs for tattoos almost immediately, but the dogs will be left for a couple of days just in case the owner turns up. They will be fed though during this time!

If no one knows or recognises them then the local Vet is contacted and the dogs taken there. The Vet is responsible for contacting the central database for tracing owners, etc and will deal with the animals.

Do people elsewhere bother like this? I am not sure.

The reason here is twofold. Firstly, they would not consider leaving a dog without food and certainly worry about their health - living rough as it were. They also know that their hunting dogs often 'get lost' when out - and would hope/expect someone would take the same care over their dogs if they found them!

There is a different attitude to animals down here - but it is not necessarily a worse attitude.

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