Different bodies, same rights

Different bodies, same rights

Leopard soup sprinkled with chopped parsley, anyone? No way. Or bottlenose dolphin soup served with sliced scallion? Never. What about a bowl of soul-warming chicken soup with croutons? Why not.

This is indeed the Year of the Animal -- not just the Year of the Dog, as Chinese astrology suggests, but rabid dogs, endangered leopards, elephants and others who are in fact stars of the show.

Thailand in recent months has been drowned with headlines regarding the threat of rabies-infected dogs. This year, almost 600 animals in the country have been diagnosed with the virus and seven human deaths have been reported so far, according to figures from the Bureau of Epidemiology under the Ministry of Public Health's Department of Disease Control. Of these deaths, almost 30% had stray animals to blame, leading to the "set zero" plan to simply kill all the stray dogs to cut rabies risks. Animal activists have turned furious following such an inhumane idea, taking to social media and calling for a stop to such thinking.

This year has seen other issues related to animals and animal rights. The case worth recalling was the killing of an Indochinese leopard at Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in February and a cooking pot containing leopard-meat soup that belonged to Italian-Thai Development president and construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, who now faces six charges.

The fashion industry has also made significant movement on the global scale, with several huge brands -- such as Donna Karan, DKNY, Gucci, Versace, Furla, Michael Kors, Armani and Hugo Boss -- announcing plans to go fur-free. Renowned US-based animal rights group Peta also declared: "2018 is the year that everyone is saying goodbye to fur."

Back to Bangkok, where Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort's King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament took place last month, Peta Asia released a series of videos showing mahouts repeatedly beating elephants after the games. Peta also reported that several companies decided to end sponsorship of the elephant polo tournament after seeing such footage.

In response to Peta's report, Minor Hotels -- which operates Anantara -- issued an official statement underlying their standpoint and commitment to elephant welfare, and invited Peta to join them "to develop new and sustainable initiatives that we can all agree will create the desired longterm outcome for elephants across Asia".

It seems animal activists are at it these days to protect the rights of all those poor living creatures. They protested and organised public forums to make their voices heard, which in many cases is hardly a dream come true. But while campaigning for animal rights, the irony is that we still have the perception that different animals are entitled to different levels of rights, which leads to a failure to respect them equally.

While advocating for animal rights, Peta also supports veganism, and subsequently shunned eating, wearing and experimenting on animals, as well as using them for entertainment.

But for those enraged when seeing, for example, the leopard meat in Premchai's soup pot, it's time for self-contemplation. Leopards have the same rights as animals typically used for food. A leopard is not more of an animal than other animals. Cooking leopard is no worse than cooking pigs, cows, chicken or fish.

Thailand is a Buddhist nation whose population proudly identifies as Buddhists familiar with the Five Precepts since childhood. But somehow many of them fail even to follow the first of these precepts -- to not kill -- which actually touches on many everyday actions, from dawn to dusk.

Killing is mostly associated with weapons in the hands of the killers and the actual ending the lives of others using those weapons. According to such a mindset, eating pork chops is not killing because the poor pig is slaughtered not right there on the plate but somewhere far away from the fancy restaurant. Wearing crocodile skin isn't evil, either, because the animal is scalped miles away from the luxury flagship store.

At the end of the day, we must start with the smallest unit of society -- each and every one of us. All animals should be given the same rights. Activist or not, we all must do our part in respecting the rights of all living creatures on this planet -- equally.

Then there would be no need to yell for the rights of the dead Indochinese leopard because such cold-blooded cooking would not even happen in the first place.

Arusa Pisuthipan is the deputy editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Arusa Pisuthipan

Deputy editor of the Life section

Arusa Pisuthipan is the deputy editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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