Popular or Perish
On the thick furry back of a recent announcement that the iconic Kintamani dog has received international recognition that in effect affords it Protect, Promote, Preserve status, what, if anything, can their local short coated street relatives take from the very well deserved news?
Being popular doesn’t give you automatic protection, especially when your presence has been so widespread that your uniqueness is not seen at all. Consider that the Kintamani dog is generally isolated to a small highland area and has a colourful mythical story/fable attached to its history. Marketing, knowingly or unknowingly, of the Kintamani dog, has added value to their story and money in the pockets of those who have realized that there’s a demand for their uniqueness.
For the Bali Street dog competing with the Kintamani dog is a no winner. The Kintamani is a ‘beautiful’ canine. It’s a spit away from being a full-blown Spitz breed and given its lineage, both mythical and proven, it’s in very good company. But, mythology and genetics aside, it is not a Chow Chow, nor is it an Akita. It’s a unique breed isolated to a small highland region on a mystical Island. And that’s what makes them very sought after.
Unfortunately for their lowly relatives the Bali Street dog has a greater population and is seen in most island wide locations, even as their numbers are being severely reduced. Herein resides the unavoidable truth as to one of the reasons for the blasé approach in how this ‘First Island Dog’ is in many ways reviled not revered. Everything ugly, from the virulent terrifying rabies virus and diseased emaciated images are attached to the lowly short haired street dog. No amount of publicity about their plight has helped; it can actually be argued that saturation of ‘sick’ and ‘abused’ material has in fact hurt their image. They are the only old original dog on a very small space that’s up against every other newly introduced canine and are the most unwanted.
Taking them off the Island has turned into a business opportunity for a growing number of savvy transport agencies and as the amount of rescue organizations grow the need for Balinese people to recognize and take care of their dog is being circumvented by good intentions. Manoj Gautam recently reflected on a similar situation occurring with street dogs in his home country of Nepal. In his social media post he purports the responsibility for sustainable welfare outcomes for local dogs needs to sit with local people.
It’s beyond time that the Balinese people took responsibility for the dogs of Bali.
Empathy, derived from the Greek word “empatheia,” meaning “affection,” bonds with our conscience to act as compassion’s compass in our relationships. It is the foundation for ethical behavior. Without empathy, we cannot suffer with, or for, others.
Empathy is felt and expressed differently in individuals and in cultures. In collective cultures empathy manifests differently to that within individualistic cultures. Even within those different cultures, individuals will exhibit different levels of empathy or not at all.
The evidence is already established that beings other than human suffer because of things that are done to them or happen around them. What’s also unfortunately real and documented is the extent to which humans do not believe or accept the reality of animal sentience.
Influencing human behavior change to improve the welfare of a societies animals is often tackled through providing education, particularly to children. In collective societies the value of this tool is diluted as children will typically not act, or react, as individuals. Despite what they have been taught they will respond to situations as part of their cultural collective.
Educating adults to feel empathy for another living being is fairly impossible. Often the only way to influence adult behavior is by applying an unpleasant consequence, via law, to an undesired action. Laws then become an educational tool that teach citizens to think twice before engaging in a behavior that is not acceptable to that society.
In a collective culture like Bali you can provide education until the last dog howls but the cultural conditioning that creates the collective disbelief of animal sentience needs to be taken into account when attempting to influence behavior change.
Bali dogs are the silent subject in this ongoing matter. Their continued existence is quite unimportant on an island that’s more interested in many other things. There is no statistical evidence yet to show how education has improved the lot of the average Bali dog. In fact anecdotal evidence, if one can trust the plethora of social media reporting, shows that after years of educating local people welfare for Bali dogs is either stagnant or going backwards.
On Bali Island with its unique form of Hinduism and multifaceted multi leveled existence, life for a dog is dictated by reality and religion. Are laws the only way to curb cruelty?
However, Bali runs on its own rules and that’s what is so attractive to many millions of visiting foreigners. There is a very long way to go and history may just prove that no matter how much education was offered, how much welfare was modelled and how much law was enacted, educating foreigners about where the Bali dog sits in the reality of life on Bali is the only acceptable outcome.