Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Throw another pit bull on the barbie

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The SPCA and the Minister of Agriculture, David Carter, are baying for the blood of Paea Taufa for bopping his pit bull on the head and recycling it in a backyard umu. They should be giving him a medal. If every pit bull owner in the land followed his lead, New Zealand would be a safer place to live.

Instead of Mr Carter harrumphing on television about the need for new citizens to adopt our cultural values, he should have been encouraging Mr Taufa on to the pre-news cooking slot to persuade the pit bull fraternity their pets, once barbecued, were as delicious as crayfish or rare sirloin.

Mr Carter is unsure whether a law change is needed - the SPCA says what happened was not illegal - but says he is "morally clear on the issue". I wonder how morally clear he would be if the animal had lived on to monster a passing jogger or playful toddler.

Mr Taufa told the Sunday News the decision to kill and cook the dog was made only after it became unruly. "My wife did not like that dog.

It was too messy and sometimes he tried to bite some people that came home."

In other words, it was a time bomb that had already demonstrated a tendency to want to attack visitors to the house and, by its very nature, inflict horrendous injuries.

What would the bleeding hearts from the SPCA or the vote-seeking politicians have said then? They'd have turned on the owner, particularly if he'd confessed the beast had tried to bite people before but he'd done nothing.

Admittedly, the method of dispatch was unconventional - a whack on the head then, when unconscious, a cut to the throat. But is that so different from what Mr Carter's farmer mates do find culturally acceptable. Taking the family pet lamb, raised from birth by his kids, behind the shed, then re-appearing with the makings of the Sunday roast.

As a townie, I admit to feeling equally squeamish about that as well. Yet I don't recall SPCA national chief executive Robyn Kippenberger trotting up to annual meetings of Federated Farmers and thundering that "slaughtering and eating pets is unacceptable", as she did this week.

I suspect she'd be laughed out of the hall. Yet she says she plans to process round Tongan community leaders "over the next few days" to do just that and will also lobby the Government for a law change.

Accepting there might be a culture difference on this issue, "we believe that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders of all ethnicities will share our shock and concern over this incident".

In a country with an economy is based on killing animals for export, she and the minister are venturing into uncharted realms of hypocrisy. Just a day or so before he fulminated about the immorality of the backyard umu, Mr Carter was on TV One's Sunday programme, refusing to rule out the resumption of the live sheep trade with Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in the year he was shown on screen telling MPs the trade was "a potential economic opportunity for our farmers".

The programme revealed his ministry's officials had been negotiating a resumption of the trade, though Mr Carter told the programme: "I'm not going to risk the living standards of every New Zealander by sending a few sheep to Saudi Arabia."

But he did leave the door open for the future. His objections were economic. No mention of his concerns about the morality of the shipping methods, or the roadside slaughter that occurs there.

We're a hunting, shooting, fishing culture. There's no squawking from the politicians or the general public about the morality of dropping a live crayfish into a pot of boiling water or, if they're lucky, sticking them into a freezer to slowly "go to sleep".

And come the start of the duck shooting season, the Sunday paper and television news shows that got so excited about the demise of one dog, fall over each other to get happy stories of killers hiding alongside lakes and rivers, waiting to blast unsuspecting birds with shots full of deadly pellets.

The lucky few die instantly, but many drop to the ground with broken wings and other injuries.

Our culture also lauds the heroism of brave fishermen, torturing majestic beasts of the sea by hoodwinking them into biting on vicious hooks which are then "played" for long periods until the "gamefish" finally succumb. This is called sport.

I'm no vegetarian. I love my tuna steaks and crayfish, and duck and lamb and beef too much for that. But I'm not a hypocrite either. Unfortunately for them, most beasts happen to be further down the food chain than Homo sapiens. That's our lucky break.

But for some reason, our culture, unlike, say Tongans and Koreans, has decided to treat dogs primarily as pets rather than food. However, even with pets, the line is hazy. Pet sheep and calves do turn into the Sunday roast. So let's not get too sanctimonious over one dead pit bull.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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