Saturday, February 27, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Feb. 26, 2010]

Their Bark is
Loud and
and Wide of
the Mark

THE be-nice-to-doggies lobby has been chewing our ear again over what you should and shouldn’t do in the face of a dangerous outbreak of rabies that – for whatever reason – seems to be running well outside the norms of what sensible people would assess as effective control. Last week’s editorial comment, which asserted that one of the sensible things to do is to reduce the stray dog population, was immediately countered by advice that culling is not the way to remove rabies as a threat to human populations.
The silly thing about all this is that we agree. It is obviously ineffective just to kill dogs that might be rabid (now or at some time in the future) if that is the sole – or even chief – practical application of an anti-rabies campaign. It is not necessarily ineffective however, if you are in the middle of an actual outbreak that has killed upwards of 30 people (and an unknown number of dogs) and the animals targeted live near the focus of a clinically verifiable incidence of the disease.
World experience shows clearly that rabies can be eliminated as a threat (that qualification is important; it won’t eradicate rabies) if 70 percent of dogs regularly in contact with humans are vaccinated against the disease. This is not just a theory. It is a statistical fact demonstrated by anti-rabies programmes in India and South America and experience in Western countries. The Bali Times has editorialised on precisely this point on a number of occasions. We have said numerous times – in editorials, in The Diary (which also takes a close interest) and in commentaries – that everyone’s interests are best served by a vaccination programme.
There is a rider, however. Such a programme needs to be fully resourced, run effectively, repeated as necessary (and that means according to the medical and veterinary science of the issue, not local politics), and to be backed by enforced (and enforceable) penalties on people who fail to care for the dogs under their control.
In any circumstances short of these non-negotiable requirements, it does make sense to cull stray dogs in urban or closely settled rural areas if it is known that rabies in present. That is a sensible immediate response to an outbreak. It is not a replacement for longer-term responses from the authorities; it simply removes numbers of dogs from the local “likely-to-bite-you” list. It isn’t a solution. It’s a measure of immediate protective utility.
The best protection against rabies is a predominantly vaccinated canine population (vaccinated on a programme that provides full protection against the disease and the necessary booster vaccinations to maintain that protection); a strict registration system for pet or working dogs; and a sharply significant change in Balinese social attitudes to dogs. Stray dog populations need to be reduced. That is best done by creating a society that accepts real (as opposed to notional) responsibility for animals; that promotes (and pays for) sterilisation campaigns to naturally reduce the number of strays; and which shows an active (not to say actual) interest in improving the living conditions of both people and animals.
The mangy and other diseased and deprived strays you see everywhere on Bali are a blight – on the island and on a culture that acquiesces in blindingly obvious communal irresponsibility.

Well, Hello

ONE of Bali’s more decoratively exotic birds, Sarah-Jane Scrase, lately a promoter of Paradise Property, the expat realtors, has surfaced in a new role. She is now promoting a new online service for people thinking about visiting Bali and who might, as a result, have one or two questions (well actually three, it would seem) prior to departure.
We wish her luck around that particular feeding tray. It’s pretty crowded territory.

Land of Footy

THE Diary has just spent a little over a week in Western Australia. As always, this is a wondrous thing. It provides a unique perspective on what really matters in the world, or at least the bit of it that covers the western third of the Australian continent. It is apparent from the media there – both print and electronic – and from discourse with the natives that the West Australian year is divided into two seasons: the football season and the pre-football season. It’s not even football, of course. It’s that curious form of aerial ping-pong called Australian Rules, which long before it became both a central expression of Australian nationalism and a way of getting a bit of legal biff into one’s weekends, was invented to keep antipodean cricketers out of trouble in the winter off-season. That’s why it’s played on an oval.
To the uninitiated its rules appear to mandate complete anarchy. It is unsurprising therefore that they were loosely developed from those of Gaelic football, which is played in Ireland, though with a round ball. The Australians prefer a sub-size oval ball. Some people play Australian Rules football in Bali. They’re known as the Bali Geckos. It is therefore strange that you hear so little from them.

Feeling Crabby

THERE are other delights available in the Odd Zone. One of them is crabbing, another rite of passage of Australians who live within cooee of the ocean. You can do this from a boat – though this is not recommended for people whose equilibriums are apt to be upset by anarchic wave action, such as The Diary, whose dear old Gran achieved family fame long, long ago by suffering seasickness in a rowboat on the Serpentine, that tiny little lake in Hyde Park, London – or from the beach. The latter is fun if you fancy getting your feet wet in none-too-warm water, trailing sand through everything forever afterwards, and probably not catching any crabs, a chill being more likely.
The Diary indulged in a token outing in pursuit of consumable crustaceans last week, an expedition in the company of Mrs Diary and her sister conducted at dusk with two crabbing scoops – they look like the shells of destroyed hair salon driers on sticks – a bucket and a torch. The wind over the beach at Busselton, the setting for this littoral delight, was cool. The beach looks directly north and thus precisely at where Bali lies, tropical and temptingly clement, well over the horizon and temporarily quite out of reach. The little waves were surprisingly destabilising – Mrs Diary got a bit wet tripping over one, it seems – and the crabs were conspicuously absent.
But the remains of the day were brilliantly red in the west, in the way only Australian sunsets can be; the crescent moon was artist’s heaven hanging low over the ocean; and the prominence of the Southern Cross in the inky blue sky of just dark enabled The Diary finally to persuade his two directionally challenged distaff companions that south was indeed in that direction.

Next Stop, Freezerland

FAMILY business – of the sadly inevitable kind – has taken The Diary to England, briefly. All clans have patriarchs to whom honour accrues and is due. England – and indeed Britain, of which England is merely a part, Little Englanders please note – is no longer what it was. In the four decades since separation – that is, of the singular, personal kind – much has changed in that old country. Visits over the years have been instructive on that score, especially as to the wisdom of a decision to leave its shores and seek more clement climes. There are no regrets. But one’s roots remain in one’s native soil; and at certain times in life’s journey, they cling more tightly than usual: whatever the weather.

HECTOR'S SCRATCHINGS appear, as The Bali Times Diary, in the print edition of the weekly newspaper every Friday, and on the newspaper's website at The Bali Times is also available worldwide via Newspaper Direct.

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