Posted by: calsifer | May 7, 2007

AP 20070505: Switch to organic crops could help poor

Switch to organic crops could help poor

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press WriterSat May 5, 4:51 PM ET

Organic food has long been considered a niche market, a luxury for wealthy consumers. But researchers told a U.N. conference Saturday that a large-scale shift to organic agriculture could help fight world hunger while improving the environment.

Crop yields initially can drop as much as 50 percent when industrialized, conventional agriculture using chemical fertilizers and pesticides is converted to organic. While such decreases often even out over time, the figures have kept the organic movement largely on the sidelines of discussions about feeding the hungry.

Researchers in Denmark found, however, that food security for sub-Saharan Africa would not be seriously harmed if 50 percent of agricultural land in the food exporting regions of Europe and North America were converted to organic by 2020.

While total food production would fall, the amount per crop would be much smaller than previously assumed, and the resulting rise in world food prices could be mitigated by improvements in the land and other benefits, the study found.

A similar conversion to organic farming in sub-Saharan Africa could help the region’s hungry because it could reduce their need to import food, Niels Halberg, a senior scientist at the Danish Research Center for Organic Food and Farming, told the U.N. conference on “Organic Agriculture and Food Security.”

Farmers who go back to traditional agricultural methods would not have to spend money on expensive chemicals and would grow more diverse and sustainable crops, the report said. In addition, if their food is certified as organic, farmers could export any surpluses at premium prices.

The researchers plugged in data on projected crop yields and commodity prices until 2020 to create models for the most optimistic and conservative outlooks.

Alexander Mueller, assistant director-general of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, praised the report and noted that projections indicate the number of hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa was expected to grow.

Considering that the effects of climate change are expected to hurt the world’s poorest, “a shift to organic agriculture could be beneficial,” he said.

Nadia El-Hage Scialabba, an FAO official who organized the conference, pointed to other studies she said indicated that organic agriculture could produce enough food per capita to feed the world’s current population.

One such study, by the University of Michigan, found that a global shift to organic agriculture would yield at least 2,641 kilocalories per person per day, just under the world’s current production of 2,786, and as many as 4,381 kilocalories per person per day, researchers reported. A kilocalorie is one “large” calorie and is known as the “nutritionist’s calorie.”

“These models suggest that organic agriculture has the potential to secure a global food supply, just as conventional agriculture today, but with reduced environmental impacts,” Scialabba said in a paper presented to the conference.

However, she stressed that the studies were only economic models.

The United Nations defines organic agriculture as a “holistic” food system that avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, minimizes pollution and optimizes the health of plants, animals and people. It is commercially practiced in 120 countries and represented a $40 billion market last year, Scialabba said.

___

On the Net:

FAO conference is at http://www.fao.org/organicag/ofs/index_en.htm

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

Once again, a respectable western business bends over backwards for the (hypothetically) 1 billion market of the land of the yellow dragon.

Tesco under fire for selling live turtles at its first store in China

By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
Published: 27 January 2007

Tesco opened its first supermarket under its own brand name in China yesterday but animal rights activists say the British chain was guilty of cruelty to amphibians by selling live turtles and frogs at the Hymall Tesco store in Beijing.

Barbara Maas, chief executive of the Care for the Wild International (CWI) charity, said Tesco sells live turtles, frogs and fish at its joint venture stores – as do other Western supermarket chains operating in China, such as Carrefour, Metro and WalMart.

While conceding the plight of turtles and tortoises may not touch the heart of every animal lover, she said millions of the animals are mutilated or boiled alive for food and traditional medicine in China and urged Tesco to stop the barbaric practice.

“Tesco says as justification that it can’t transfer Western standards on to China but why not sell live kittens or dogs in that case? Tesco is unwilling to lose the tiny fraction live turtle and frog sales add to its £33.6bn annual profit,” said Ms Maas.

She said amphibians and reptiles have all the neurological components for pain perception and respond behaviourally to pain, so the animals experience terrible pain when their shell, limbs and entrails are cut away, but they are left alive for hours.

The CWI is likely to run into some serious cultural opposition on the issue. Turtles and tortoises are a regular feature in Chinese cuisine – turtle soup is a delicacy, as are dishes such as braised turtle in soy sauce or roasted turtle. About 20 million turtles are consumed in China each year and they are a luxury food which adds status to the meal. Rare turtles can cost thousands of pounds. The animals are a common sight in supermarkets, tied up and squirming in string bags alongside crabs and frogs.

To a Chinese person, eating turtle is no weirder than a Western person eating cheese. But Ms Maas insists the practice is inhumane.

“Tesco told us that it has commissioned research into the stunning of turtles, with the Chinese Institute of Science and Technology,” she said. “But our research has found dozens of scientific publications that demonstrate that turtles cannot be killed humanely for food.”

While Tesco claims that the turtles sold in its stores are farmed, CWI says conditions on the farms can be horrendous and turtle farming can damage wild populations by spreading disease and also because farming is likely to involve the collection of wild turtles.

Tesco is Europe’s top retailer and the third largest retailer in the world. It bought a 50 per cent stake in Hymall, a leading grocery brand under the Taiwan-based Ting Hsin International Group, in 2004, and increased its stake to 90 per cent last December.

The company has 45 Hymall stores in China, all of which will change their signs to Hymall Tesco.

Hymall Tesco will compete with other major supermarket chains, including France’s Carrefour, the Germany-based retailer Metro and the US giant Wal-Mart as well as the local retailer Jingkelong.

This is going just a bit too far.

From DawnWatch:

The front page of the New York Times has a story headed, “Of Gay Sheep, Modern Science And the Perils of Bad Publicity.” The article, by John Schwartz, covers protests against experiments at Oregon Health and Science University on gay sheep.

It opens:
“Charles Roselli set out to discover what makes some sheep gay. Then the news media and the blogosphere got hold of the story.

“Dr. Roselli, a researcher at the Oregon Health and Science University, has searched for the past five years for physiological factors that might explain why about 8 percent of rams seek sex exclusively with other rams instead of ewes. The goal, he says, is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of sexual orientation in sheep. Other researchers might some day build on his findings to seek ways to determine which rams are likeliest to breed, he said.

“But since last fall, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals started a campaign against the research, it has drawn a torrent of outrage from animal rights activists, gay advocates and ordinary citizens around the world — all of it based, Dr. Roselli and colleagues say, on a bizarre misinterpretation of what the work is about.

“The story of the gay sheep became a textbook example of the distortion and vituperation that can result when science meets the global news cycle.”

The article continues in that vein, slanted to suggest that those protesting the experiments have misrepresented them. It does, however, acknowledge “that the sheep are killed in the course of the research so their brain structure can be analyzed.” And buried towards the bottom it mentions a release that quoted Dr. Roselli as saying that the research ”also has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans.”

But it then continues:

“Mr. Newman, who wrote the release, said the word ‘control’ was used in the scientific sense of understanding the body’s internal controls, not in the sense of trying to control sexual orientation.

”’It’s discouraging that PETA can pick one word, try to add weight to it or shift its meaning to suggest that you are doing something that you clearly are not,’  he said.

“Dr. Roselli said that merely mentioning possible human implications of basic research was wildly different from intending to carry the work over to humans.

“Mentioning human implications, he said, is ‘in the nature of the way we write our grants’ and talk to reporters. Scientists who do basic research find themselves in a bind, he said, adding, ‘We have been forced to draw connections in a way that we can justify our research.”’

That suggests that Roselli is willing to say anything convenient in order to get his research grant — and perhaps to protect his reputation when the story hits the news.

The article ends with a quote from Paul Root Wolpe, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the university’s Center for Bioethics:  ”I’m not sure I would let him off the hook quite as easily as he wants to be let off the hook” and then,

“The prospect of parents’ eventually being able to choose not to have children who would become gay is a real concern for the future, Dr. Wolpe said. But he added, ‘This concern is best addressed by trying to change public perceptions of homosexuality rather than stop basic science on sexuality.”’

The article opens the door for letters from those who are not comfortable with animals being killed for “basic science on sexuality” any more than for attempts to cure homosexuality.

You’ll find the whole article on line at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/science/25sheep.html

The New York Times takes letters at letters@nytimes.com

Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Remember that shorter letters are more likely to be published. And please be sure not to use any comments or phrases from me or from any other alerts in your letters. Editors are looking for original responses from their readers.

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited — leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.)

=====

January 25, 2007

Of Gay Sheep, Modern Science and Bad Publicity

Charles Roselli set out to discover what makes some sheep gay. Then the news media and the blogosphere got hold of the story.

Dr. Roselli, a researcher at the Oregon Health and Science University, has searched for the past five years for physiological factors that might explain why about 8 percent of rams seek sex exclusively with other rams instead of ewes. The goal, he says, is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of sexual orientation in sheep. Other researchers might some day build on his findings to seek ways to determine which rams are likeliest to breed, he said.

But since last fall, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals started a campaign against the research, it has drawn a torrent of outrage from animal rights activists, gay advocates and ordinary citizens around the world — all of it based, Dr. Roselli and colleagues say, on a bizarre misinterpretation of what the work is about.

The story of the gay sheep became a textbook example of the distortion and vituperation that can result when science meets the global news cycle.

The news media storm reached its zenith last month, when The Sunday Times in London published an article under the headline “Science Told: Hands Off Gay Sheep.” It asserted, incorrectly, that Dr. Roselli had worked successfully to “cure” homosexual rams with hormone treatments, and added that “critics fear” that the research “could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.”

Martina Navratilova, the tennis star who is both openly gay and a PETA ally, wrote in an open letter that the research “can only be surmised as an attempt to develop a prenatal treatment” for sexual conditions.

The controversy spilled into the blog world, with attacks on Dr. Roselli, his university and Oregon State University, which is also involved in the research. PETA began an e-mail campaign that the universities say resulted in 20,000 protests, some with language like “you are a worthless animal killer and you should be shot,” “I hope you burn in hell” and “please, die.”

The news coverage, which has been heaviest in England and Australia, focused on smirk and titillation — and, of course, puns. Headlines included “Ewe Turn for Gay Rams on Hormones” and “He’s Just Not That Into Ewe.”

In recent weeks, the tide has begun to turn, with Dr. Roselli and Jim Newman, an Oregon Health and Science publicist, saying they have been working to correct the record in print and online. The university has sent responses to senders of each PETA-generated e-mail message.

Dr. Roselli, whose research is supported by the National Institutes of Health and is published in leading scientific journals, insists that he is as repulsed as his critics by the thought of sexual eugenics in humans. He said human sexuality was a complex phenomenon that could not be reduced to interactions of brain structure and hormones.

On blogs where attacks have appeared, the researchers point out that many of the accusations, like The Sunday Times’s assertion that the scientists implant devices in the brains of the sheep, are simply false.

The researchers acknowledge that the sheep are killed in the course of the research so their brain structure can be analyzed, but they say they follow animal welfare guidelines to prevent suffering.

The authors of the Sunday Times article, Chris Gourlay and Isabel Oakeshott, referred questions to a managing editor, who they said was traveling and could not be reached.

Dr. Roselli and Mr. Newman persuaded some prominent bloggers, including Andrew Sullivan, who writes an online column for Time, to correct postings that had uncritically quoted The Sunday Times’s article. They also found an ally in the blog world: a scientist who writes under the pseudonym emptypockets and has taken up Dr. Roselli’s cause. The blogger, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said a public stand could hurt his career, said he had been cheered by the number of bloggers who dropped their opposition when presented with the facts.

Ms. Navratilova, who also received a response from the university, said she remained unconvinced.

“The more we play God or try to improve on Mother Nature, the more damage we are doing with all kinds of experiments that either have already turned or will turn into nightmares,” she wrote in an e-mail reply to a reporter’s query. “How in the world could straight or gay sheep help humanity?”

In an interview, Shalin Gala, a PETA representative working on the sheep campaign, said controlling or altering sexual orientation was a “natural implication” of the work of Dr. Roselli and his colleagues.

Mr. Gala, who asked that he be identified as openly gay, cited the news release for a 2004 paper in the journal Endocrinology that showed differences in brain structure between homosexual and heterosexual sheep.

The release quoted Dr. Roselli as saying that the research “also has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species, including humans.”

Mr. Newman, who wrote the release, said the word “control” was used in the scientific sense of understanding the body’s internal controls, not in the sense of trying to control sexual orientation.

“It’s discouraging that PETA can pick one word, try to add weight to it or shift its meaning to suggest that you are doing something that you clearly are not,” he said.

Dr. Roselli said that merely mentioning possible human implications of basic research was wildly different from intending to carry the work over to humans.

Mentioning human implications, he said, is “in the nature of the way we write our grants” and talk to reporters. Scientists who do basic research find themselves in a bind, he said, adding, “We have been forced to draw connections in a way that we can justify our research.”

As for whether the deaths of the sheep are justified, he said, “why would you pick on a guy who’s killing maybe 18 sheep a year, when there’s maybe four million killed for food and clothing in this country?”

Paul Root Wolpe, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the university’s Center for Bioethics, said that although he supported Dr. Roselli’s research, “I’m not sure I would let him off the hook quite as easily as he wants to be let off the hook.”

By discussing the human implications of the research, even in a somewhat careful way, Dr. Roselli “opened the door” to the reaction, Dr. Wolpe said, and “he has to take responsibility for the public response.”

If the mechanisms underlying sexual orientation can be discovered and manipulated, Dr. Wolpe continued, then the argument that sexual orientation is based in biology and is immutable “evaporates.”

The prospect of parents’ eventually being able to choose not to have children who would become gay is a real concern for the future, Dr. Wolpe said. But he added, “This concern is best addressed by trying to change public perceptions of homosexuality rather than stop basic science on sexuality.”

—-

Readers’ Opinions: Forum: Gay Rights

I think this is something that we need to be mindful of. Where will the vaulted IRs of Singapore get their supply of dolphins?

From DawnWatch:

The UK’s Independent continues its coverage of Japan’s dolphin slaughter — still largely ignored in the US press. An article by Jonathon Owen in the Independent on Sunday — January 14, 2007 — is headed, “£25,000;  What brutal hunters in Japan charge for catching a dolphin;
‘Swimming with dolphins’ craze helps to fund a bloody and illegal slaughter.”

It focuses on the link between dolphin slaughter and dolphins as human entertainment.

It  tells us:

“More than 20,000 whales and dolphins are killed along Japan’s coastline every year but the most notorious of the hunts is the ‘drive fishery’ near the village of Taiji. Fewer than 30 fishermen are behind an annual hunt in which dolphins are chased into shallow waters and then stabbed to death. The few that are spared are then sold on to the highest bidder.

Ric O’Barry, Flipper’s trainer turned dolphin rescuer is quoted:
“‘Leading aquariums and swim-with-dolphin dealers are subsidising the Japan dolphin slaughter by paying £25,000 or more for a few show dolphins from the catch.”

And we read:
“Ocean World Adventure Park – a million-pound tourist resort in the Dominican Republic where visitors spend more than £60 a time to swim with captive dolphins – has placed a £300,000 order for 12 bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins, dubbed the ‘Taiji 12’, were taken in what he says is one of the most violent and brutal captures that he has ever seen.

“A report released last year by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society reveals that dozens of dolphins captured in Japan’s annual “drive fisheries” – and then spared – have ended up in aquariums around the world.

You’ll find the whole article on line at http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article2152441.ece

You can send a letter to the editor to letters@independent.co.uk

And please, use this information for letters to your own papers when you see articles on the pleasures of viewing or swimming with captive animals as entertainment.

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited — leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.)

===============

£25,000: What brutal hunters in Japan charge for catching a dolphin
By Jonathan Owen
Published: 14 January 2007

The former trainer of Flipper the dolphin is to spearhead an international campaign against Western sea- life parks that, he claims, are subsidising brutal dolphin hunting in Japan.

More than 20,000 whales and dolphins are killed along Japan’s coastline every year but the most notorious of the hunts is the “drive fishery” near the village of Taiji. Fewer than 30 fishermen are behind an annual hunt in which dolphins are chased into shallow waters and then stabbed to death. The few that are spared are then sold on to the highest bidder.

“Leading aquariums and swim-with-dolphin dealers are subsidising the Japan dolphin slaughter by paying £25,000 or more for a few ‘show’ dolphins from the catch,” said Ric O’Barry, a former US Navy diver who trained the dolphin star of the 1960s television series before turning against dolphin captivity in 1970.

Ocean World Adventure Park – a million-pound tourist resort in the Dominican Republic where visitors spend more than £60 a time to swim with captive dolphins – has placed a £300,000 order for 12 bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins, dubbed the “Taiji 12”, were taken in what he says is one of the most violent and brutal captures that he has ever seen.

A report released last year by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society reveals that dozens of dolphins captured in Japan’s annual “drive fisheries” – and then spared – have ended up in aquariums around the world.

Few animals beat the box-office appeal of dolphins, and their price has shot up since the days of Flipper, when they sold for less than £200 each. There has been an explosion in dolphin attractions, particularly in the US and the Caribbean, and trained dolphins now fetch up to £50,000 each.

But animal rights activists argue that the basic needs of dolphins cannot be met in captivity and that they suffer extreme physical and mental distress, which can result in aggressive behaviour, as well as a lower survival rate and higher infant mortality than their wild counterparts.

The death of Flipper, cradled in his arms, was a turning point in Ric O’Barry’s life. “She just seemed to give up on living,” he said. “At that moment I realised that what I had been doing was wrong and decided to dedicate my life to getting dolphins back to the wild where they belong.”

Posted by: calsifer | January 24, 2007

TODAY 20070123: we’re cooking ourselves alive

It’s always good to see another rational mind in our midst speaking out

This story was printed from TODAYonline

we’re cooking ourselves alive

Tuesday • January 23, 2007

Maryanne Maes

TWO years ago, it would have seemed insane to have environmental disasters hog the headlines of major newspapers around the world. Now, it’s a common sight. “Dawn of the Hot Age?” (Jan 22) sums up the impending dangers the world is facing, now more than ever.

Two years ago, Singapore was alerted to the warning signs of climate change, especially with the threat of being overwhelmed by rising sea levels.

Two years on, Singaporeans remain nonchalant to how this would impact on their daily activities.

Plastic bags are still being wasted, air-conditioning temperatures in shopping malls and offices are still reaching North Pole standards, and both the rich and pseudo-rich continue to buy more than two fuel-guzzling cars per household to uphold their social status.

As the article mentions, the recent signs of climate change couldn’t get any starker. And I wonder when developing nations will pause to think if their doctrine of “business as usual”, in their relentless pursuit of economic growth, will truly serve their interests — or is it simply a case of the blind leading the blind?

Singapore has developed its expertise in maximising its water resources, and recently has introduced the Euro IV vehicle emission standards. But what of the need for other pressing shake-ups?

Since the Republic ratified the Kyoto Protocol last year, I have not seen any major effective national programs being spun off, nor any initiatives to rattle the current unsustainable business mindsets of our local companies in promoting corporate environmental responsibility.

Other countries are surging ahead with green funds and investment, while our local bankers respond wide-eyed when asked about it.

The freeze over the American Plains in the past two weeks has cost the citrus industry more than US$2 billion ($3.07 billion). Australia’s wine and agricultural crops have withered in the drought, while the floods in Malaysia have caused vegetable prices to skyrocket.

Singaporeans depend on such imports for their daily needs. Sir Nicholas Stern was kind and conservative in predicting that the world economy will shrink by 20 per cent by 2050. Looking at the chaos around us, the figure could increase manifold.

Many sceptics say doomsayers are overplaying the effects of climate change, but this is one global hot potato that every nation and individual must bravely deal with as best they can.

Climate change is not something that will only happen in the next generation. The change has already affected us now, one way or the other — and we must act, or there will be no place to call home in the very near future.

So Singaporeans, do recognise that you don’t really need your air-conditioned room to be 5°C colder; that taking an extra plastic bag will cause a cascade of indirect adverse impacts; and that driving an SUV into which you dump gallons of fossil fuel will create environmental problems that you, and your children, will have to endure.

This is contributed by a reader.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Posted by: calsifer | January 19, 2007

TODAY 20070117: A bigger hand for HR

Given the reports that indicate that Singapore workers’ ongoing laments about lack of work-life balance, nurturing leadership/mentoring/grooming, discrimination at work, discrimination against married or pregnant female employees, and discrimnatory recruitment practices, it sure looks like HR needs more than just a bigger hand.


This story was printed from TODAYonline A bigger hand for HR

Personnel want to play more strategic role in firms, rather than fire-fighting

Wednesday • January 17, 2007

Jasmine Yin
jasmine@mediacorp.com.sg

TOP executives need to lead more with their hearts and guts, rather than their brains.

Such multi-dimensional leadership will satisfy the intellectual and emotional needs of workers, said Mr Rajan Srikanth, Asia’s president of human resource consultancy Mercer.

“Traditionally, most companies have relied on the ‘head’ — where leaders use their logical and analytical expertise — as the primary dimension of leadership. But it’s not good enough because the context today — such as globalisation, outsourcing and IT issues — is very uncertain,” he told Today.

Building leadership capability ranked among the top three human resource (HR) challenges in Singapore last year, behind retaining and acquiring key talent.

This was according to Mercer’s Asia study of 618 participants, who were mostly senior HR executives with over five years’ experience in the field.

Of these, 97 were from Singapore, which had the highest number of participants after China.

In particular, HR personnel here lamented their inability to play a more strategic role because they were too busy fire-fighting (60 per cent) or were perceived as poor performers by their leaders (about 50 per cent).

Both these figures were higher than the overall average for the regional study, which included Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Japan and the Philippines.

Local respondents said they spent much more time on transaction and record-keeping (28 per cent) than the amount they desired (12 per cent).

They would also like to at least double their time spent on designing HR programmes (21 per cent) and strategic planning (29 per cent), as compared to what they have currently (about 11 per cent on each).

Mercer’s senior consultant Adam Kassab, who oversaw the study, pointed out that there is nothing wrong for HR personnel to be interested in administration, as it is vital to an organisation’s survival.

“A HR person needs to be a good administrator. If not, you will not have a good, efficient system to operate on,” concurred Singapore Human Resources Institute executive director David Ang, who spoke to Today recently about the intense global competition for talent.

About three in five local survey respondents felt that it is important to work with HR in a business. But of that figure, nearly half felt that a HR department has no decision-making power within an organisation.

However, the status of HR in Singapore has gained ground over the past few years, according to the study results.

Last year, 40 per cent saw HR as valuable — a sharp rise from 10 per cent in 2003. And just under 10 per cent perceived it as “a cost” last year, vis-à-vis slightly more than 60 per cent in 2003.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

From Cat’s blog:

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Story of a Goat & a Priest


Once upon a time, there was a little goat and a priest.

The priest wanted to sacrifice the goat to the gods. As he raised his arm to cut the goat’s throat, when suddenly the goat began to laugh.

The priest stopped, amazed and asked the goat, “why do you laugh? Don’t you know I’m about to cut your throat?”

“Oh yes,” said the goat. “After 499 times dying and being reborn as a goat, I will be reborn as a human being.”

Then the goat began to cry.

The priest asked “Why now are you crying?”

The goat replied, “For you, poor priest. 500 lives ago, I too was a priest and sacrificed goats to the gods.”

AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE AGAINST ANIMAL SACRIFICE

Article courtesy: islamveg.com

By Shahid ‘Ali Muttaqi

Every year, with the onset of Hajj and it’s accompanying ‘Id celebration, as well as that of the ‘Id al-Fitr, the issue of animal sacrifice, and subsequently, that of meat consumption in the Islamic world, rises to the foreground, both amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike. For many in the Islamic world, this issue is a sensitive one. Still reeling from years of colonialism, every aspect of Tradition (whether legitimate or perceived) becomes a rallying point against further western conquest.

For not only are wars for self determination, and basic human rights still being fought by Muslims around the world but in addition to these physical struggles – both in the East, and even more so for those Muslims living in the West, the struggle for the heart, mind and soul of each believer within the Religion of Islam is a continual battle. Everywhere we turn, our faith is both subtly and overtly belittled, and we are continually pressured to adopt western ways, to assimilate to the so called “more civilized culture”.

Meanwhile, many well meaning individuals in the western world fall victim in their own way to this legacy of colonialism, and even more so to the legacy of the Crusades. Stereotypes of the Muslim world are so entrenched in western culture, that many tolerant, opened minded people, who would ordinarily never seek to demean an entire segment of humanity (be it a religious, cultural, or racial group) do so nonetheless as if it’s almost second nature (apparently not even recognizing they’re doing it) when it comes to Islam.

Rather than viewing Islam as the legitimate heir and continuation of the Judeo-Christian culture with which it itself is connected (seeing itself not only as the primordial root of the Abrahamic tradition, but also as the culmination of it), it is continually relegated to the realm of some backwoods phenomenon – a primitive culture and spirituality, outside the pale of the enlightenment with which the west claims as it’s own – unaware that it is in fact this very religion (Islam), and it’s ensuing culture that lead to many of the advancements in human knowledge that are now synonymous with civilization itself.

In relation to the discussion of animal welfare, this tendency amongst westerners usually places the Islamic world as the “Barbaric Other”, an isolated domain whose population is perceived as being steeped in superstition, and somehow outside the realm of reason and intellectual discussion, thus making it an inpenatabrale wilderness, viewed as forever lost territory. When contact is made, it is usually done so begrudgingly and in a condescending manner – a sort of last ditch effort to “save the savages from themselves”.

Rather than seeing Islam and it’s ensuing culture as being of the same level of complexity and diversity as their own religious beliefs and traditions, we are viewed as a remote and distant minority population, whose oppions are assumed to be one and the same, that is, backwards and irelavent (even though in reality we represent one of the largest blocks of humanity with an equally diverse range of oppinions).

With this in mind, it is ultimately up to us as Muslims to take the first step, to speak out about pressing issues of ethics and morality, both for the sake of our own community and it’s continual advancement with the rest of humanity, as well as to clear up misconceptions in the western world that ultimately hurt us all. For it is ONE world. And if we are to better the planet in which we live, it is going to take mutual respect and cooperation between all of Mankind.

So let us begin by addressing the issue that is perhaps one of the major objections which people of conscious have towards Islam (as they see it) and that is the ritual slaughter of animals.

Sacrifice is not a pillar of Islam. Nor is it obligatory during Hajj, it’s accompanying ‘Id or the ‘Id al-Fitr. This is not to say that it did not, or does not happen. However, we must look at the occurrences in a contextual manner, understanding not only the pre-Islamic institution of sacrifice, the Quranic reforms concerning this practice, and the continuance of sacrifice in the Muslim world, but also the nature in which the Quranic revelations occurred. For it seems that with many people, both non-Muslims and Muslims alike, context is the key that they are missing.

The Quran did not get ‘sent down’ as a blueprint for human society, with a list of do’s and don’ts that were to be magically implemented overnight to form a utopian world. Rather, it came over a period of 22 years, sometimes in answer to the Prayers of the Prophet (sal), other times in relation to a circumstance within the community, to questions that the faithful had regarding a particular practice etc., and always with the goal of helping the faithful strive to further know Allah and to live in harmony with both the heavens and the earth. So in this context, one can say that the Quran represents the compilation of teachings that came in response and in relation to the time and place scenario’s with which they were dealing with. However, getting deeper into the essence of these teachings, we must also take into account that the Quran itself refers to those verses as having allegorical meanings behind the apparent literal ones. So in this context, we must acknowledge that the inner meanings of the verses are applicable to situations outside of those to which the outward meanings pertain.

With this in mind, let us start with the situation as was in pre- Islamic Arabia in regards to animal sacrifice. Not only did the Pagan Arabs sacrifice to a variety of Gods in hopes of attaining protection or some favor, or material gain, but so too did the Jews of that day seek to appease the One True God by blood sacrifice and burnt offerings. Even the Christian community felt Jesus to be the last sacrifice, the final lamb so to speak, in an otherwise valid tradition of animal sacrifice (where one’s sins are absolved from the blood of another).

Islam however broke away from this long standing tradition of appeasing an “angry God” and instead demanded personal sacrifice and submission as the only way to die before death and reach ‘Fana’ or ‘extinction in Allah.’ The notion of ‘vicarious atonement of sin’ (absolving one’s sin’s through the blood of another) is nowhere to be found in the Quran. Neither is the idea of gaining favor by offering the life of another to God. In Islam, all that is demanded as a sacrifice is one’s personal willingness to submit their ego and individual will to Allah.

One only has to look at how the Quran treats one of the most famous stories in the Judeo-Christian world: the sacrifice of Isaac – here, in the Islamic world seen as the sacrifice of Isma’il – to see a marked difference regarding sacrifice and whether or not Allah is appeased by blood. The Quranic account of the sacrifice of Isma’il ultimately speaks against blood atonement.

37:102-107
Then when (the son)
Reached (the age of)
(Serious) work with him
He said: “Oh my son!”
I see in vision
That I offer thee in sacrifice:
Now see what is
Thy view!” (The son) said:
“Oh my father! Do
As thou art commanded:
Thou wilt find me,
If Allah so wills one
Practicing Patience and Constancy!”
So when they had both
Submitted their wills (to Allah),
And he had laid him
Prostrate on his forehead
(For sacrifice),
We called out to him,
“Oh Abraham!”
“Thou hast already fulfilled
The vision!” thus indeed
Do we reward those who do right.
For this was obviously
A trial
And We ransomed him
With a momentous sacrifice”

Notice that the Quran never says that God told Abraham to
kill (sacrifice) his son. Though subtle, this is very important. For the moral lesson is very different than that which appears in the Bible.

Here, it teaches us that Abraham had a dream in which he saw himself slaughtering his son. Abraham believed the dream and thought that the dream was from God, but the Quran never says that the dream was from God. However, in Abraham and Isma’il’s willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice Abraham of his son, Isma’il of his own life – they are able to transcend notions of self and false attachment to the material realm, thus removing a veil between themselves and Allah, enabling Allah’s mercy to descend upon them as the Spirit of Truth and illuminate them with divine wisdom (thus preventing a miscarriage of justice and once and for all correcting the false notion of vicarious atonement of sin).

For certainly, the ever merciful, most compassionate, would never ask a father to go against His command of “thou shall not kill” and kill his own son in order to be accepted by Him. For the Quran teaches us that God never advocates evil (See 7:28 and 16:90) and that only Satan advocates evil and vice (24:21). The notion that Allah would
want us to do an immoral act runs counter to Allah’s justice.

As far as the yearly tradition that has followed this event (that is the sacrificing of a Ram to commemorate Abraham and Isma’il’s’ great self sacrifice), we must understand it, and the Quranic verses that pertain to animal sacrifice, in relation to the time and place circumstances in which these revelations came, and how people were trying to make a personal sacrifice by sharing their limited means of survival with the poorer members of their community.

That is to say, the underlying implication of Islam’s attitude towards ritual slaughter is (as explained earlier) not that of blood atonement, or seeking favor with God through another’s death, but rather, the act of thanking God for one’s sustenance and the personal sacrifice of sharing one’s perceived possessions and valuable food with their fellow man. The ritual itself is NOT the sacrifice. It is merely a method of killing where the individual kills as quickly as possible and acknowledges that only Allah has the right to take a life, and that they do so as a humble member of Allah’s creation in need of sustenance just like every other species in Allah’s creation.

So let us examine some of the appropriate verses in the Quran to see what it has to say about sacrifice and how it related to life in 500 C.E. Arabia (Also included is commentary by Yusuf Ali – to show that even someone who was pro- sacrifce and coming from an understanding that saw animals as subject to Man, did not champion wanton cruelty or notions of blood atonement.):

22:33
In them* ye have benefits
For a term appointed:
In the end their place
Of sacrifice is near
The ancient house

*”In them; in cattle or animals offered for sacrifice. It is quite true that they are useful in many ways to man, e.g., camels in desert countries are useful as mounts or for carrying burdens or for giving milk, and so for horses and oxen; and camels and oxen are also good for meat and camels hair can be woven into cloth; goats and sheep also yield milk and meat, and hair or wool. But if they are used for sacrifice, they become symbols by which men show that they are willing to give up some of their own benefits for the sake of satisfying the needs of their poorer brethren” (Yusuf Ali commentary)

22:34
To every people did We
Appoint rites (of sacrifice)
That they might celebrate
The name of Allah over
The sustenance He gave them
From animals (fit for food)*,
But your God is One God:
Submit then your wills to Him
(In Islam): and give thou
The good news** to those
who humble themselves

* “This is the true end of sacrifice, not propitiation of higher powers, for Allah is One, and He does not delight in flesh and blood, but a symbol of thanksgiving to Allah by sharing meat with fellow men. The solemn pronouncement of Allah’s name over the sacrifice is an essential part of the rite” (Yusuf Ali commentary)

** The good news: i.e., the Message of Allah, that he will accept in us the sacrifice of self for the benefits of our fellow men. (Yusuf Ali commentary)

22:37

It is not their meat
Nor their blood that reaches
Allah: it is your piety
That reaches Him: He
Has thus made them subject
To you, that ye may glorify
Allah for His guidance to you: *
And proclaim the Good news
To all who do right

* “No one should suppose that meat or blood is acceptable to the One True God. It was a Pagan fancy that Allah could be appeased by blood sacrifice. But Allah does accept the offering of our hearts, and as a symbol of such offer, some visible institution is necessary. He has given us power over the brute creation and permitted us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life, for without this solemn invocation, we are apt to forget the sacredness of life. By this invocation, we are reminded that wanton cruelty is not in our thoughts, but only the need for food.”
(Yusuf Ali commentary)

It is quite clear from the Quranic passages above that the issue of animal sacrifice is in relation to the role animals played in Arabian society at that place and time (as well as other societies with similar climates and culture), in that Man is commanded to give thanks to Allah and praise Allah for the sustenance he has given them and that they should sacrifice something of value to them to demonstrate their appreciation for what they have been given (which in their case were the very animals from which their survival was based).

The rites of sacrifice are specific to that which Allah has given to Man for his sustenance. The assumption that such sustenance is always meant to be of the four legged variety is incorrect. Much evidence suggests that early man was primarily vegetarian, as Genesis states “I have given you every herb bearing seed for food.” In fact, according to the Bible, it was only after The Flood that mankind was permitted to eat flesh (presumably for survival reasons), as their normal food would have been scarce. And from time and place and from culture to culture, what is present for survival varies. Native American tribes in Alaska and Northern Canada had access to just fish, seals and whales etc. Certain Island people’s only had fish. While still other populations remained vegetarian, eating primarily fruit and nuts.

Nowhere in the Quran does it suggest that these people who do not need to eat meat to survive, or those who eat meat but do not have access to the same animals present in Arabia are somehow unable to be Muslims.

And nowhere in the Quran does it suggest that sacrifice is meant for any purpose other than that of thanking Allah for that which we have sometimes been obliged to kill, or the personal sacrifice of giving up something that is considered a possession in order to share it with our more needy neighbors, etc.

Animals are mentioned in the Quran in relation to sacrifice, only because in that time, place and circumstance, animals were the means of survival. In those desert lands, mankind was intricately tied up in the natural cycle, and as a part of that, they killed and were killed like every other species of that area. Islam brought conditions to regulate life in that atmosphere, ensuring the best possible treatment for all under those circumstances while at the same time broadening people’s understanding of life to include a spiritual dimension and a respect for all life as a part of a unified whole. But let us not confuse for a minute that we are forever stuck in that circumstance, or that the act of eating meat, or killing an animal is what makes one a Muslim.

To utter “Ashhadu an la ilaha illa-Llah, wa ashhadhu anna Muhammadan rasulu- Llah is what makes one a Muslim. Plain and simple. The understanding that there is No God, but Allah. Or to put it even more appropriately, that there is No God. Only Allah.

This is the heart of Islam. From there, there are 4 more pillars that make one a practicing Muslim (these pillars being there to aid in the realization that there is no God, only Allah” ) but again, animal sacrifice or meat eating is not one of these pillars.

Animal sacrifice only has meaning or purpose in the process of submitting to Allah in context of thanking Allah for our means of survival. In the times and places where animals were (or still are) a necessary resource that Mankind had (or has) no choice but to use for it’s sustenance, there is an important lesson to be learned in making a sacrifice and sharing with the community that which would be looked upon as a valuable commodity or possession (by many).

In such environments there is an absolute necessity for Halal methods
of slaughter which at least try to ensure that when Man must kill an animal for food (in order to survive), that the animal is raised in its natural environment and killed as humanely as possible, as well as reaffirm the truth (in the reciting of the formula below) that only Allah has the right to take life, and that they humbly do so only for survival, in the name of Allah.

Subhan Allahi
(Glory be to Allah),

Walhamdu lillahi
(all praise to Allah),

Wa la ilaha ill Allahu
(and none is God except Allah),

Wallahu akbar
(and Allah is greatest),

Wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa billahi
(and none has majesty and none has power to sustain except for Allah),

Wa huwal aliyul’alheem. amin
(And He is the highest, the supreme in glory. Ameen)

For in a situation where meat must be eaten, there needs to be rules to both protect animals and to impart a higher spiritual significance to an act that could easily degenerate to wanton cruelty. One only has to look at some supposedly “Buddhist” countries that fall short in terms of their adherence to vegetarianism to see what happens when there are no rules in place to deal with man’s shortcomings.

Not to single out or condemn Buddhism by any means (as it is a valid Tradition and Religious Path) but rather, to make an example of it, since in it such a high ideal is championed without dealing with the inevitable reality of less than ideal circumstances. That is to say that there are no regulations concerning the killing of animals. Buddhism speaks against it, but did not have the power to change all of humanity from that age old practice.

Thus, what usually happens is butchers are brought in from non- Buddhist tribes, so that no “Buddhist” has to take a life, but can, nonetheless, eat meat produced in some of the most inhumane cruel conditions that exist. The same goes with western “Christian” countries that somehow feel they can malign the Muslim world for sacrificing animals, when they themselves have institutionalized factory farming and worldwide environmental destruction.

So no, this is not a black and white issue where animal sacrifice is always wrong or where people who profess vegetarianism are somehow more spiritual or closer to God. But at the same time, it is not a blanket acceptance of a tradition for the sake of ritual.

If someone lives in a desert climate, in a small village where meat eating is an unchangeable reality, and a matter of survival, then the issue of sacrifice has context and relevance. But for those of us living in the modern world, we have to seriously question practices that not only have lost meaning (in our present circumstances) but also are contributing to needless bloodshed and environmental destruction (not to mention the health problems incurred by meat eaters).

Furthermore, the majority of animals used for sacrifice during the Hajj are not even raised or killed in a Halal manner. These days the numbers of animals needed are so high that the majority are imported from New Zealand and other countries. The raising of these animals (along with those for meat and wool export) is contributing to the environmental destruction of New Zealand’s eco-system.

Furthermore, these animals are shipped in brutally overcrowded conditions where large percentages regularly die from either disease, being trampled or from heat exhaustion. This is not humane. This is not halal. And we can’t ignore this reality. It’s not enough to acknowledge that the situation is unfortunate. We as Muslims must not only change
our own actions that help create this situation, but also speak out for the protection of Allah’s innocent creatures. We’re not living 1400 hundred years ago, and whether some of us like it or not, the world is changing.

One can talk all they want about Sunnah (tradition and way of the Prophet(sal)), but if we do so, then let us take the whole picture into account. The Prophet(sal) ate primarily dates and barley, only occasionally eating meat (which would have been necessary at that time and place for proper health, as it was a vary harsh climate that demanded a rigorous lifestyle which was very taxing on the human body). Such circumstances do not exist today for most of the developed world, and the fact is, meat eating in our current sedentary lifestyle’s is responsible for the increase of cancer and heart attacks throughout the world.

Meat Eating (and in relation to it, animal sacrifice) are not intrinsic to who the Prophet(sal) was or to what he preached. And most of the current research shows that humans are healthier on a vegetarian/vegan diet (ultimately proving we do not need to eat meat, and therefore, no longer have any justification for animal sacrifice in a modern setting). Certainly the Prophet (sal), who instructed us to go even to China in search of “Ilm, or ‘Divine Knowledge’ understood the importance of advancing our understanding of the world in which we live, and living in harmony with the reality of our surroundings.

The time has come for all true Muslims, be they Sunni or Shi’a, Sufi or otherwise to stand up for the universal standards of justice and compassion that the Prophet (sal) not only spoke of (both through Hadith and more importantly, as the receiver of the Quranic revelation), but actually put into practice.

For those who need to take a life in order to survive, then let them do so humbly and with respect for the life they are forced to take, showing as much mercy and compassion as humanely possible in an otherwise regrettable situation. However, for those of us who no longer need to kill in order to survive, then let us cease to do so merely for the satisfaction of ravenous cravings which are produced by nothing more than our Nafs (or lower self). That would truly be the Sunnah of the Prophet (sal).

We are currently setting up an Islamic based animal welfare/environmental protection society. Those interested in getting involved or for more information on Islam and veganism etc., please feel free to contact us at PUREISLAM@aol.com

Posted by: calsifer | January 17, 2007

BBC 20070112: What every Brit should know about jaywalking

And so should every Singaporean.

But wait!

“Jaywalking is an offence in most urban areas in the United States – although enforcement varies between states – and Canada, and in places such as Singapore, Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Australia.”

So we’re civilised, among the most developed countries, at least we’re “there” with something, pity it’s not the way we treat others. Ohwell, nevermind, bring out the champagne!


What every Brit should know about jaywalking

The professor lies on the ground surrounded by police

The moment of his arrest

 

In the UK no one would bat an eyelid. In Atlanta, you could be wrestled to the ground. It is a cautionary tale for any traveller – distinguished historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto tried to cross the road while in Atlanta for the conference of the American Historical Association, only to find himself in handcuffs and surrounded by armed police.

“I come from a country where you can cross the road where you like,” said the visiting professor of global environmental history at Queen Mary College, University of London. “It hadn’t occurred to me that I wasn’t allowed to cross the road between the two main conference venues.”

The bespectacled professor says he didn’t realise the “rather intrusive young man” shouting that he shouldn’t cross there was a policeman. “I thanked him for his advice and went on.”

The officer asked for identification. The professor asked for his, after which Officer Leonpacher told him he was under arrest and, the professor claims, kicked his legs from under him, pinned him to the ground and confiscated his box of peppermints.

Professor Fernandez-Armesto then spent eight hours in the cells before the charges were dropped. He told the Times that his colleagues now regard him as “as a combination of Rambo, because it took five cops to pin me to the ground, and Perry Mason, because my eloquence before a judge obtained my immediate release”.

Not every jaywalking Brit abroad will be similarly blessed, nor enjoy the intervention of the city mayor.

Culture clash

Just because you can do something in the UK doesn’t mean it’s OK in another country. Jaywalking is an offence in most urban areas in the United States – although enforcement varies between states – and Canada, and in places such as Singapore, Spain, Poland, Slovenia and Australia.

JAYWALKING

Pedestrian who crosses without regard to traffic regulations, who steps out anywhere other than a specified crossing, without a green light

Word originated in the US in early 20th Century

‘Jay’ was slang for a newcomer unfamiliar with city ways

In Brisbane, police have begun doling out fines after complaints from motorists involved in near-misses with jaywalkers. In Beijing and Shanghai, city officials have clamped down on jaywalkers in an attempt to improve public behaviour ahead of the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Expo respectively.But there is no such offence in the UK, where it is considered a personal responsibility to cross the road safely (although London mayor Ken Livingstone last summer proposed making jaywalking illegal). The Highway Code recommends that all pedestrians abide by the Green Cross Code: “Where there is a crossing nearby, use it. Otherwise choose a place where you can see clearly in all directions.”

In Germany and the Netherlands, the onus is more on the motorist. Not stopping for pedestrians on crossings is an offence, and a driver can be issued with a ticket even if they are waiting on the kerb (again, the expectation is that pedestrians should cross safely).

Some road safety campaigners claim that with traffic heavier, where light phases are timed to allow as many vehicles through an intersection as possible, pedestrians are increasingly taking risks in order to cross the road.At least Prof Fernandez-Armesto can relax in the knowledge that it’s not just outsiders who commit such heinous offences as crossing the road where they please.

Back in 1915, the Atlanta Constitution reported that the practice of “jay walking” was all too commonplace.

“People cross the streets any and everywhere, without regard to traffic, darting in front of fast-moving motor vehicles, dodging horses and street cars, and even braving ambulances and fire apparatus with no satisfaction except the consciousness that ‘they did it,’ and then having plenty of time to turn and contemplate the danger they have escaped.”

Having been carted off in a “filthy, foetid paddy wagon” as the professor described it, that last observation was one denied to him.

Some of your comments so far:

I was in Aachen for a conference and was returning to the station with 15 others to catch the last train of the evening back to our hotel. The road outside the station was being resurfaced, and there was no obvious place to cross. But, half way across the road, a whistle blew and two German policemen came running to stop us. They gave us an on-the-spot fine of 10 euros each and told us to walk 100m up the road and round the corner, while they watched, to the nearest crossing. We ran, and only just managed to catch the train.
Simon, Salford, UK

There is some fascinating footage of a street scene in San Francisco in 1905 illustrating the point (to watch it, click here ). Someone set a camera on a moving tram and simply let it run as it went down a busy street. It shows that if anything behaviour has improved in the past century.
Paul T Horgan, Bracknell, UK

My wife and I were in Poland once and we crossed a totally empty road. The only vehicle in sight was a police van, which was not approaching us… until we crossed. The officers beckoned us over and began to give us a dressing down. However, as soon as they realised we were Johnny-foreigners, they eased off, explained that the rules were different and politely asked us to use designated crossing in future. Obviously the Polish police are more courteous than their US colleagues.
Tom, London, UK

The very same thing happened to me in LA in 2002. I was aware of the law but it was evening and unfortunately I didn’t see that the car I had crossed in front of was a patrol car. I foolishly approached the car with my hands in my pockets, something one must never do in LA, and was commanded to stop immediately with my hands in the air. The cantankerous American officers were bamboozled by my foreign ID and whisked me off down to the station. I played the ignorant British teenager and was released back into downtown LA at 2am, unaware of my location and no means of getting home.
Ben Formela, Bristol

It should be noted that the Netherlands legalised jaywalking in 1997. The effect on pedestrian fatalities was nil. More, fatalities in Germany and the Netherlands are a fraction of what they are in the US, despite walking trips being much more frequent. Given the very strict protection of pedestrians in those countries, it seems that motorists should be held to be considerate of their less well-protected partners on the roads in order to ensure the safety of all sides.
Oliver Hauss, Dortmund, Germany

Moscow 1975: dragged back to the pavement by students, so my wife and I were not arrested.
Vienna, 1996 – occasional shouts, and fines for some friends walking across an empty intersection against a red man. I became more sympathetic when a woman said I was setting a bad example to her children – I should think of them, not myself. As a parent myself, touche!
Budapest, 2007 – doesn’t matter whether it is green or red, the motor-idiots always accelerate across red lights – after they have changed – but then take forever to accelerate away on green. Police action? Zero.
So… RULE 1: see a child? STOP ON RED, GO ON GREEN. Rule 2: see a policeman? He should have better things to do than arrest you, unless Rule 1 applies…
Alan, Budapest, Hungary

Reminds me of a “true story” of a couple of years ago when seconded to work in Prague. One unfortunate British colleague crossed at a pedestrian crossing – no traffic but against the red man light. Not understanding Czech, he ignored the shouts of the local plod, who promptly shot him in the leg to catch his attention. Urban myth? Maybe, but I always tell the tale to visitors to make them more cautious when crossing roads… it usually works.
Mollie, Scotland

It’s true to an extent. The police out here do fine people for crossing against the red-light man (surely I’m forgetting some correct terminology). I’ve been pulled at 3am for crossing empty streets. But you aren’t likely to get shot.
Aaron, Prague, Czech Rep

I was in Honolulu recently and a cop called to me “Hey you, no jaywalkin’ in future”. I said OK and hurried off. I asked my hotel desk clerk what it was all about and he said that because of the anti-gay, repressive local authorities, walking in an effeminate manner had been outlawed. I spent the rest of my holiday walking like John Wayne and escaped police harassment. Now I know the truth! Bet the clerk had a right old hoot at my expense.
Rod Gribbin, Cambridge

I remember being in Luzern, Switzerland, waiting at the crossing of a barely used access road by the train station, together with about 10 locals. With not a car in sight, I strolled across – to the audible gasps of the people behind me. I turned around and one young woman exclaimed “it’s red!” in German, with a look of utter disbelief on her face.
Matthew Dear, Milton Keynes

In Japan it is mandatory to follow the traffic regulations at the crossings, but there are levels of priority; a person walking is given a priority over the one using a bicycle, and a motorist usually stops for the walking person to cross.
Sobia Ahmed, Tokyo, Japan

I’m from California but have lived in Costa Rica, Paris and Barcelona, and I do understand the US’s jaywalking laws. Generally, the streets here are wider, so a saunter across 10m has a lot more risk than that of 4. In LA, people hardly recognize a pedestrian, and while they’re babbling away on their cell phones, sipping Starbucks, and driving with their knees, the jaywalker doesn’t have a chance. It’s mostly about size. You don’t see many native Parisians jaywalking the Etoile in Paris to get to the other side, either.
David Gorman, Oakland, CA

Did they give him back his peppermints?
Beth, Grand Canyon, Arizona

I really object to the idea of not being allowed to cross the road where and when I deem it safe. I lived in Denmark and used to take great joy in crossing on a red light. Even when there was not a car in sight in any direction the Danes would shout at you and point to the red man. I object to not allowing jaywalking partly because the assumption is that the car is more important than the pedestrian – if the road is clear I should be able to cross. Now I live in Saigon where people just wander across between the moving motorbikes. Jaywalking is an essential way of life here, you might die waiting to cross the road!
Martin, HCMC, Vietnam

In the Philippines, as part of the government’s effort to discourage jaywalking, they put up giant billboards at the centre of the road saying “BAWAL TUMAWID NAKAMAMATAY” (DO NOT CROSS, IT IS DEADLY).
Prince Cruz, Metro Manila, Philippines

Ever tried crossing the main roads in Cairo? It looks hairy, but is actually very civilised and easy. Don’t expect the traffic to slow down (it’s moving pretty slowly and at a steady speed). Just walk steadily across the road between the cars. The drivers are the best I’ve seen anywhere, they know what you are going (and you know where they are going). I’m sure it does sometimes happen, but in all my years going there, I’ve never yet seen anyone hit by a car.
Pete Green, Wymondham, UK

I live in Switzerland where jaywalking is also illegal, although not really controlled. But if you get hit anywhere other than on a crossing, you would have no medical insurance. Visitors from the UK seem to think this is funny, and colloquial. Until they get the hospital bills. I find myself being looked on rather as a village idiot, when I wait for the green man at a crossing in England. But who is the real idiot? The biggest problem in the UK is the distance between crossings. It is a simple fact of life that people are essentially lazy and will not walk an extra 500m if they do not perceive that they should.
Peter, Zurich

I lived in Milan for many years. Over there if a pedestrian even looks like he wants to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing, motorists will accelerate so as not to let him through. Once I visited Moscow (in the old days of Brezhnev), and nearly got arrested for jaywalking. I wonder if they are still so strict, I have not been back since.
Laurence Archer, Sydney

In Sydney and Melbourne you are almost fined for not jaywalking, whereas in Brisbane, you can end up with a court appearance and almost a criminal conviction if caught jaywalking more than three times. Cars have too much control of the road, pedestrians are waiting longer and longer.
Jason, Canberra, Australia

The good professor should take a trip to Boston! He can cross anywhere he likes there, assuming he’s willing to tempt the Massachusetts drivers.
Aaron, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

In the US, enforcement of jaywalking laws – and customs – can vary greatly, depending on the city and region. Visit NYC and you’ll see that pedestrians can cross anywhere at anytime, regardless of traffic volume. Traffic tickets, forget jail, are as rare as the dodo bird. Travel 200 miles to Washington DC, however, and you’ll find that stepping off the curb at an intersection, not to mention in the middle of a street, can result in honking and dirty stares from drivers.
Larry, Mt Vernon, US

As an English expat resident in Hong Kong, I find the road crossing system most annoying at times. Jaywalking is an offence punishable by a fine, however it is very frustrating to be waiting by a roadside for five minutes for the lights to change and a not a single car has passed by. This is of course only true in the more rural areas of the city. I follow the old saying “when in Rome…” which means I cross when I please, just as the locals do.
DRS, Hong Kong

You can always spot American tourists in London as they’re always the ones who hover nervously at the edge of the pavement, fearful to cross until the green man shows. Londoners of course just stride out purposefully regardless. This just confuses the Americans even more as they believe we’re all patient folk who like nothing better than to queue endlessly.
J Jones, London

Your article is incorrect when it states “there is no such offence in the UK”. Jaywalking is an offence in Northern Ireland (part of the UK), although it is rarely enforced. The enforcing of such is at the discretion of the observing officer. Enforcement usually results in the issuing of a £30 non-endorsable fixed penalty notice, however, may result in arrest and court prosecution eg: for failing to provide a satisfactory name and/or address.
David McInnes, Belfast

Jaywalking is not the only area where US police react excessively. I know of one colleague who found himself face down on the ground with a gun to his head after failing to come to a complete halt at a stop sign.
David Burke, Manchester

Jaywalking illegal in Spain? I have yet to see any person, here, prosecuted for such an act. In fact cars often park on pedestrian crossings without being prosecuted. You also stated that a car in the Netherlands has to stop for a pedestrian. I would not want to ague with a car so I would wait.
Ian, Galicia, Spain

On my little Island, pedestrians can jump out in front of your car – if you are unlucky enough to hit one, then it’s the car driver that will be arrested and charged. The Spanish police consider hitting a pedestrian (even if they’ve jumped into the path of your car) a very serious offence. God help any one that does it!
Teri, Fuerteventura, Spain

Another example of how car is king in America. It’s bad enough that cars don’t slow down much near pedestrian crossings anyway with out such a ridiculous law in force. The car doesn’t own the road, it should share it with a bit more consideration for others.
Kate, Bristol

So *that* is why the locals were honking their horns at me in San Francisco last autumn. I did wonder. Cheers Beeb.
Tom, Cambridge, UK

Yet another victimless “crime”, another waste of police resources and time, and another way for the state/councils to extract money from us. Expect it to become law here.
Rob, London, UK

Published: 2007/01/12 09:54:37 GMT

© BBC MMVII

Posted by: calsifer | January 16, 2007

The Feisty Minority

Came across this, very intriguing as it came from a member of the very minority being discussed.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Feisty Minority

Why Malays Mustn’t Cry Racism.

The topic of skin discrimination has reared its hideous face once again in Singapore. Like a whack-a-mole machine at the amusement arcade, talks of racism can never seem to disappear totally – even after 30 years of pounding away to achieve national harmony.

This time it started when I.T. firm Frontline Technologies took out job ads with a local recruitment website some weeks back. The ad came with a grotesque reminder that “non-Indians” are preferred for the post. The fiasco sparked off pockets of angry commentaries in the local press, some of which have spun off into even deeper accounts of racism experienced by other minorities. Inadvertently, some of these accounts have crept their way onto our local blogs and Internet forums.

But what amuses me is the fact that the one minority that seems to be more affected than the Indians themselves are the Malays. Not long after the spate of racist stories, several blogs and Internet forums are seen peppered with complaints and stories by our Malay workers about how they’ve been “shunned” by companies at job interviews, recruitment fairs and during their actual job itself. Many claim that they cannot advance further within their respective companies because of their “skin color”. On the ewadah.com forum, one particularly unhappy worker was lamenting the fact that it’s really pointless for Malays to upgrade themselves when companies only seem to promote “Mandarin-speaking” workers and that the nation itself is advocating speak Mandarin campaigns year after year.

If the Internet is a true measure of ground sentiments away from our sanitized press, then there is a whole bunch of unhappy Malay workers out there whose voices are yet to be heard. And most of these voices are crying “racism”.

My word to fellow Malays of the country is to stop whining about racial discrimination – even if it really does exist. Accusations of racism are not only dangerous in the context of a multi-racial society like ours, but more importantly it’s frivolous. In fact, I’m beginning to think it’s rather wimpy.

The fact of the matter is this – over the course of mankind’s existence, there has always been groups of people faced with some form of discrimination or the other. It’s something that no civilization can ever escape from. Not even we, whose existence have been bolstered by the utopian dreams of a multi-racial society that is Singapore. No point denying that shimmers of these discriminations may just exist in this peaceful island we call home.

But what is more important to note is that oppressed minority groups over the course of history have done either one of two things when they are faced with racism. They either whine, or they shine. To which group do we Malays want to align ourselves to?

Good examples of a minority group that shine instead of whine are the Jews all over the world. From the Ottoman Turks in Arabia to Nazi Germany who ruled much of Europe in the 1940s, Jews are minorities who have faced every possible form of discrimination known to mankind – some even became the cause of their deaths. Till today, wisps of hatred still exist towards the Jewish race, even in a “democratic” country like the United States. As actor Mel Gibson demonstrated very well not so long ago albeit a drunken stupor, Jews in the country are still dogmatized with ancient prejudices.

But instead of whining about it and demanding that they be treated fairly like the Caucasians, they chose to show the world how a minority race can shine. And shining they are indeed. Consider this: Jews make up only 2% of the population in the USA but they are the wealthiest ethnic race by far and control much the economy. Steven Spielberg, Ralph Lauren, Michael Dell are just some of the more contemporary Jewish figures who have a made a name for themselves in the American economy – instead of making excuses.

Meanwhile, in the list of American Nobel prize winners, 40% of the laureates are Jewish. Academically they also make up 30% of the population in America’s elite universities – by far a very disproportionate representation. (All statistics from The Jewish Phenomenon, a book by Steven Silbiger)

Many more statistical data exist that will demonstrate very well how a tiny minority has rose to the occasion and exerted so much influence in the world’s largest economy. But one does not have to peer very far for another example of a minority that shines instead of whines. Just look across the causeway.

It is a well known fact the Chinese population in Malaysia does not receive the same types of privileges that ethnic Malays do. From university scholarships to educational grants, the Chinese population has been systematically marginalized since time can remember. Quite a while ago, there was a newspaper report about how a Chinese student scored straight ‘A’s for his STPM examinations but could still not secure a place in a local university due to the ethnic quotas imposed by the institution.

Similar discrimination exists on the economic front too. Non-Malay businessmen are not allowed to tender for government contracts and Chinese businesses are usually hard pressed for government assistance who understandably prefer to only help their “own kind”.

But do we see them complaining? They most definitely do not. Instead they put the majority race there into an existence of shame. Despite the blatant racism, the Chinese have risen to become an economic and business powerhouse in the land. In Forbes Malaysia’s list of 10 richest people, 8 of them are Chinese. These include hotel moguls, estate developers and bankers who have made it to where they are without the favorable conditions that the Malays there enjoy. This tremendous creation of wealth has inadvertently elevated the socio-economic status of the Chinese community in Malaysia-in sharp contrast to that of the Malays who continue live in perpetual mediocrity. Will the Malays there ever wake up?

When Singapore Malays complain about racism, they are no different from their brethrens up north who keep blaming their surroundings for the state they are in. Singapore as a society has worked very hard to eradicate racism. Our society is a plural one that rewards and recognizes solely based on meritocracy. Whether you sink or swim is really up to your efforts, instead of the ethnic group that you belong in. You have to admit it that the conditions our minorities face here a just so much better than what the Jews or Malaysian Chinese faced when they were just starting out.

If however you are in the unlikely situation of finding yourself working in a racist company that has yet to be enlightened by our national policies, just remember one important point : Racism, like any other obstacle in life, can either work against you or in your favor. What does not kill you will make you stronger. The Jews and the Malaysian Chinese have recognized these very well and have worked it towards their advantage by shining instead of whining. Will Singapore Malays do the same?

Posted by: calsifer | January 16, 2007

TODAY 20070116: a mayor’s pet lesson FOR us

Found these links and references about this article:


This story was printed from TODAYonline

a mayor’s pet lesson FOR us

Tuesday • January 16, 2007

Goh Boon Choo

ONCE again, a homeless cat has been brutally killed. A newspaper reported that on Dec 29, the dead cat was found hanging on a staircase railing of Block 245, Simei Street.

According to Cat Welfare Society operations director Dawn Kua, the cat was seen alive at 5pm. An hour later, it was dead.

This audacious crime, committed in broad daylight, comes on the heels of several well-publicised cases.

David Hooi Ying Weng, the twice-arrested kitten basher, is still serving a one-year sentence. Malaysian Wong Geng Thong, the serial cat killer of Old Airport Road, has been deported after his two-month sentence ended. The brutal Jurong East cat killer(s) are still at large, and dead cats continue to be found.

Public outcry follows these cases. And perhaps awareness of animal abuse and cruelty has risen because of these horrific crimes. The issue has caught the attention of Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong who paid some attention to it in conceptualising the Community Court.

But all this does not seem to have deterred abusers. How can Singapore stop the cruelty? The authorities always seem to rally around the twin slogans of education and public civic-mindedness when replying to questions about cruelty and other animal issues.

This penchant to leave it to the people is quintessentially a Singapore Government modus operandus. But the Singaporean penchant to follow the authorities’ cue is equally quintessential.

Early this month, Time magazine published the story of how the city of Albuquerque, in the United States, is fighting its homeless animal problem.

Leading the fight is Albuquerque’s Mayor Martin Chavez. He takes his mongrel, Dukes, to work with him. He has made the ending of euthanasia in the city’s shelters a goal. Dukes’ presence in his office highlights his commitment to tackling the unwanted animal population.

The mayor of Albuquerque is not alone in his compassion. Apparently, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes feral kittens home to socialise them before they are put up for adoption in Ottawa’s shelters. Incidentally, a feral cat colony has existed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for many years. An 81-year-old volunteer feeds them, and has built living structures for them. The Canadian government features it as an attraction and the cats are sterilised and treated by doctors.

Mayor Chavez aims to make Albuquerque a city where all animals suited for adoption will have homes. He said: “We can’t be a complete city as long as we euthanise animals.” To highlight their woes, he takes shelter animals to public events. Time reported that these animals often find new homes on the spot. It has only been two years since Mayor Chavez started tackling the homeless animal problem — the city’s euthanasia rate has halved, and Albuquerque now adopts out more animals than it kills.

The might of influence cannot be denied. Beyond the confines of rules and procedures, the authorities do have roles to play in tackling Singapore’s apathy and animal abuse.

The writer is a Singaporean concerned with animal and environmental issues.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

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