A brutal event brings some uncomfortable reality
I stopped the car beneath the drizzling rain, as creaking wiper blades
ploughed through the blurred images of this soggy afternoon. Next to my
car, behind a market restaurant on the trunk-road to Kuching, stood
parked a number of pickup trucks, the owners of which had left to find
a bowl of soup, the rest room, or a cheap 'saloon' girl. On my right,
at a dress shop, stood shopkeepers in front of their piles of faded
clothes. No customers were in sight. Puddles of murky rainwater stained
with silt shed-off from truck tyres had formed in every depression of
the wobbly market road crossing.
The salesmen watched the rain clouds drifting along from the jungle
and getting hooked up in hilly canopy, enveloping and painting the
landscape in a gloomy gray.
“I’ll come back in a minute," said Maureen, who sat next to me. She
opened the car door and rushed to the food shop to buy a plate of rice,
and some dried river fish, the sort we can't find in coastal Miri. I
gave her a sleepy nod and watched the boring view ahead, while the
engine rumbled, the fan blew cool steam, and blurred monochromatic
pictures on the screen came and went bye.
I had been sitting behind the wheel waiting for some five minutes,
when I heard a screaming sound. It originated from a small sheepherder
dog that tried to escape from the back of a pick-up truck parked a few
yards away. My eyes followed the scene. As the dog squealed, a lad of
some 20 years, armed with a metal stick, rushed out off the cabin,
jumped up to the deck, and started to beat the dog.
First I though it was about punishing the animal. But as the man
continued to fiercely beat on the animal, the dog wildly screaming in
despair, a more sinister thought came to my mind. Some passengers had
stopped, and looked at the scene, too, a bit baffled. At this moment
Maureen came back from the restaurant, one hand carrying a plastic bag
with food, the other hand holding a newspaper over her head, as the
rain poured down stronger compared to a while ago.
I opened the window, and shouted to her: “The man is killing the
dog,” half sure of what I was saying, half bewildered and incredulous
about my own words.
“That’s the way the Chinese are,” she said. “They kill dogs, and if needed, people. They love to eat dog meat.”
I was shocked. I hadn't expected that particular reply. I had
secretly hoped that I was wrong, that this was only an average outburst
of day-to-day agression against a pet. Yet at this moment I understood,
the dog was beaten to death to serve hungry customers in the food place
Having crossed a cultural borderline, I felt powerless and saddened. “Can’t we do anything, Maureen?” I asked with a low voice.
She just shook her head, and spoke with a sad voice: “We Kayans (a
Borneo tribe) respect animals, in particular dogs. But we are only a
small minority on our island, these days. The (Borneo) Chinese,
however, kill and eat anything. The Government also wants street dogs
to be killed, as by far too many populate roads and villages. What to
The noise had stopped. The killer from the pick-up truck carried
the dead dog to the restaurant. We drove ahead, in silence. What we had
witnessed was a brutal event, a shocking intrusion of brutal reality
into my idealistic and sometimes naïf world view.
In the end my mind drew a painful question. Was it really a crime
to kill a dog in public, whilst other intelligent animals – horses,
pigs, cows and even sheep – are systematically killed in
slaughterhouses, with plain public approval and a legal license to
kill? Is it really that important that animals are being killed in a
"humane way", if killing itself represents the most cruel (and
definitive, irreversible) action on earth?
© 2006 by Franz L Kessler