Author Topic: Driven wild by barbarity. The Australian 12.11.2012  (Read 754 times)

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Driven wild by barbarity. The Australian 12.11.2012
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2012, 01:06:05 AM »
THERE'S a poignant, haunting story about the celebrated German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche that turns up in every Nietzsche biography. On January 3, 1889, when Nietzsche was 44 and living in Turin, he saw a frenzied cabman mercilessly flogging his horse to death in the Piazza Carlo Alberto. Nietzsche raced across the square and flung his arms protectively around the afflicted horse's neck, before passing out.    

They revived him and got him back to his lodgings. But Nietzsche was never the same man again. For the remainder of his life, which ended 11 years later, the philosopher was never too far from madness.

All manner of theories were, and are, advanced to explain Nietzsche's inability to fully recover his senses, and it may be drawing a long bow to attribute his mental collapse solely to his witnessing the mistreatment of a horse. Yet, for what it's worth, the scribe -- having seen Four Corners footage last year of the fate of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs and news clips of the recent slaughter of 20,000 Australian sheep in Pakistan -- is prepared to believe that what history now routinely talks of as "Nietzsche's horse" was the trip-wire that snapped the philosopher's brain.

Animal cruelty is a truly dreadful thing to behold, whether it's a cabman's horse, a household cat or dog, or on a wider, industrial scale. It can damage something deep in your psyche, which is why the ancient scribe last week broke a Monday tradition by giving ABC's Four Corners a miss.

It always seems a shame not to watch FC. They put a lot of effort into it and try hard to get it right. But if you can't take it, you can't take it. Last week's edition was about the awful deaths of the sheep in Pakistan and the scribe, having already read Amanda Hodge's revelations in The Weekend Australian, decided FC was for those made of much sterner stuff. We take it for granted the FC reporter, Sarah Ferguson, did an excellent job, just as she did last year in revealing what can happen to Australian cattle in Indonesia.

It's a thoroughly good thing that people are made aware of what the culmination to the live animal export trade entails. It's just that in so many cases the culmination is horrific. A television viewer could feel involuntarily compelled to scream out a line from a famous speech by one of history's hard men, Oliver Cromwell: "Love the sheep, love the lambs, love all, tender all, cherish and countenance all."

Cruelty to animals isn't just difficult to witness. It's also difficult to write about. It's so easy to veer towards anger. You write a sentence about an innocent creature being brutally clubbed to death or buried alive, then reach for the words of contempt which suitably express your disgust and despair. You can get so outraged you become all but incoherent. That way lies the verge of madness. Maybe that's what happened with
Nietzsche. Thus it is that we must keep calm, as dispassionate as the topic allows.

So, first the politics, then the philosophy. The Greens say FC will be the last "nail in the coffin" for the live animal export trade. We can only hope the Greens are prescient. Julia Gillard says she believes the live animal trade remains "sustainable" and we can only call, again, on the above-mentioned Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."

The best newspaper coverage of this story has been in The Australian, with Milanda Rout reporting last Tuesday that Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig had received detailed departmental advice last year on his "handling approach" to the FC expose of the Indonesian barbarity. Rout's informant was the prominent Liberal senator Eric Abetz.

The latter obtained Ludwig's advice, which included that the minister might care to express "shock" at the mistreatment of the cattle, under Freedom of Information legislation and it's difficult to disagree with Abetz's assessment that Ludwig's comments were about "affectation and spin, rather than any genuine appreciation of their consequences for animal welfare".

Some horrible, ghastly stuff has happened to innocent animals on Ludwig's watch. His responses to Kerry O'Brien at the conclusion of last week's FC (when it became safe to watch) were massively short of reassuring.

Coincidentally, Ludwig was a Nietzsche family name, carried through several generations. The philosopher's father, for example, was one Karl Ludwig Nietzsche.

We digress. The thing is that this isn't just a story about animal cruelty. It's a simultaneous calibration of just how civilised this country is. How we (directly or indirectly) treat animals, the elderly, the frail and the vulnerable touches on a question posed by a British academic, Alice Roberts, whose recent television series (shown a few weeks back on SBS) carried the title, Are We Still Evolving? The fate to which live animal exports are blithely consigned suggests the answer to Roberts' question is no.

Many who so vociferously support the live animal trade appear mired in an era when even the most enlightened men and women didn't really believe animals could suffer, certainly not to the extent we noble, meat-enriched humans could. Now we know this is not so.

FC, last week (sheep) and last year (cattle), was about many things. It was about Nietzsche's horse, the fitness of our species to be stewards on this earth and the evolution of the human conscience. It was also about doing the right thing. And the right thing by animals is precisely what we're not doing.

Independent MP Bob Katter even turned up on the BBC World Service a couple of weeks back and virtually apologised for the Pakistanis who treated those sheep so abominably. We Westerners, said Katter, might think it was cruel but we must respect other cultures. Mmmm. Only the Greens get it.