*feature image courtesy of author Vanessa Tsai微距鏡頭拍攝的發黴麵包 Moldy bread photographed with a macro lens

English version after Chinese text.

【2020年4月29日。台中。】悠閒的公園裡傳來悠揚的薩克斯風,是遠處的一對男女並肩坐在公園的長凳上。男生吹奏著樂器,女生牽著寵物、低頭滑著手機,一切如此愜意。而我–的–眼–光,竟然完全被那女生牽著的所謂寵物吸引了!聽著她跟路過的人分享著心得…

「他比貓狗還好照顧。

「不會喔!他都不會有體味。」

突然,『好討厭人類』這句話從我口中說了出來,而我,也是人類。

狐獴,原住在南非、納米比亞及安哥拉西南部的喀拉哈里沙漠,主要以昆蟲為食的動物。這種會挖洞、住在地底網狀洞穴裡,非常社會化的動物,正是那位妙齡女子手上所牽引著的她的寵物。

原居非洲南部喀拉哈里沙漠的一隻狐獴,被飄洋販賣到亞洲,蹲在台中的一個閒散的公園的樹蔭下。 A pet meerkat, native of Africa’s Kalahari Desert, hanging around its keeper in a park in Taichung. Image courtesy of author Vanessa Tsai

從2015年開始,拜熱門電影《獅子王》(Lion King) 所賜,臺灣開始有合法管道引入這樣的動物,供作寵物販賣。直至2019年八月,在臺灣,合法飼養的狐獴不到五十隻,每隻要價十萬台幣。報導中更提及,臺灣的合法狐獴都有歐洲合法飼養登記之後才出口到亞洲,而野生狐獴與人工狐獴有著不同的行為模式。這種做法完全忽略狐獴本身有其適合居住的地方環境,也完全忽略他們是社會性動物,強將其生活行為扭轉成為寵物,更強說寵養牠們可免他們於面臨食物鏈的考驗。這是完全強調販賣者的合法性及自以為是的合理性。而飼養者的說法莫過於「比貓狗好養」、「體型小,很好飼養」、「乾淨無味,照顧起來不須太過費心」、「個性聰明體貼」⋯⋯諸如此類。這不禁令我思考,要養寵物的一開始是基於麻煩不麻煩?網路上任意搜尋養寵物的優點,少說都有六大點,其中最常被提及的就是「紓解壓力」。一個可以陪伴緩和情緒的夥伴,被拿來考量的因素僅有「不麻煩」?為了不麻煩,人類製造的麻煩可多了!

曾經聽過一段訪談,來自環保著稱的德國。訪問者在街頭訪問路人關於政府要求大家做垃圾分類的想法,尤其是塑膠製品,如:寶特瓶、塑膠袋⋯⋯其中一位受訪的長者,鏗鏘有力地說著:「如果塑膠很不好,為什麼政府要放任企業製造?他們製造了,那就讓他們負責清理啊!為什麼放任他們製造之後,又定下一堆規則要我們使用之後遵守?」心裡先是一震,我怎麼壓根兒沒想過?但是心裡其實是贊同的要命!從小不都是學到『做錯了就更正』?如果塑膠製品已經泛濫成災(*註1),為何不是停止生產,而是尋找各式不合自然狀態(*註2)的方法來延續這所謂便捷的生活?

如果生活上需要陪伴的夥伴挑選,只有想到「方便」、「不麻煩」,人與人之間的關係,又該是立基在那個重要因素之上?為了便捷製造出來的垃圾,只是想方設法請出突變細菌來協助處理,那麼所有可以解決生活上不便的一切,就都不應該被指責!當真如此的話,為了除掉世界上阻擋自己成為一方強權而來製造生化武器的想法,似乎也不那麼奇怪及難以理解了!

*註1:2019年八月,美國研究已經證實科羅拉多州的雨水內含有塑膠微粒。

*註2:2020年四月,英國衛報報導 Cabrio 這家生技公司已經成功製造出一突變細菌酵素可以在幾小時內摧毀塑膠瓶。

***

[Taichung, 29 April 2020, Vanessa Tsai; English translation by Linda Lai] In a leisure park there came the gentle surge of a saxophone sound. On a long bench, a couple sat side by side — the male was playing the saxophone whereas the female was carrying a pet, her fingers gliding on her phone. That was supposed to be such a comfortable sight except that my gaze was fixed — totally fixed, on the pet that the female was carrying. Now and then, she could be heard returning comments to passers-by, sharing her insight:

“He’s easier to take care of than dogs and cats.

“No. He doesn’t have any body odour.”

“I hate human beings!” I heard myself as these words rushed out. And yes, I, too, am a human.

A meerkats’s original habitat is around the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, Namibia and Southwestern Angola. Mainly feeding on insects, the meerkat is a very social animal; it digs a hole and lives in a net-shaped cave underground. And this is the pet that the young woman was carrying along.

Thanks to the popularity of Lion King the movie, starting 2015, Taiwan began to have legal channels to introduce such animals like the meerkat for pet sales. As of August 2019, there were less than 50 meerkats legally raised in Taiwan, each priced at NT $ 100,000. Reportedly, legal sales of meerkats are registered in Europe before the animations are exported to Asia. It is important to point out, however, that wild-life meerkats and (artificially) reared meerkats have different behavioral patterns. Ongoing practices, therefore, totally ignore the meerkat’s need for a specific kind of environment for optimal survival as much as the species’ sociability. It is cruel enough to forcibly reverse a meerkat’s lifestyle to fit a domestic pet’s; it certainly is a twist of truth to claim that by petting wild animals like meerkats, we human beings are saving them from potential food-chain crisis. This is total bias towards legality, highlight nothing but the traffickers’ self-righteousness reasoning. Listen to it more carefully, the breeder ’s justification are no more than the following: “better than cats and dogs,” “small in size and easy to keep,” “clean and odorless, not taking too much care from us,” “intelligent and considerate” ⋯⋯ and so on.

I can’t help wondering: should the decision to keep a pet or not hinge on how much we can save trouble or not? I searched the internet. There are about six major advantages for keeping pets, so we are told. The top one is “relieving pressure.” How do we equate the need for company and relief from pressure with minimisation of trouble on the same scale? In order to minimise trouble, we human beings have created a lot more trouble!

I once came across an interview from Germany, a country famous for environmental protection. The street interview asked passers-by what they thought of the government’s suggestion to ​​require every household to sort their domestic waste, especially plastic products, such as plastic bottles and plastic bags … One senior citizen proclaimed when he was asked, “If plastic is not good, why does the government allow business enterprises to keep manufacturing it? So, the manufacturers produce plastics as encouraged, then why not leave it to them to be responsible for cleaning up? Why does the government set aside all these rules to oblige us for using plastics whereas manufacturers were encouraged to produce freely in the first place? ” Ever thought about it? But my heart is actually a terrible endorsement! Have you always learned “correct it if you make a mistake” since you were young? If plastic products are already flooding [1], why not simply stop producing plastics altogether instead of introducing more artificial ways [2] to sustain the so-called conveniences in life?

If, in looking for a companion in everyday life, “convenience” and “trouble-free” are all that matters, what do we suggest should be the foundation of interpersonal relationship? We create garbage for convenience’s sake and, in response, we look to mutant bacteria to treat the problems our garbage creates. Such a logic rules that we shouldn’t blame anything as long as convenience is served! If we accept this, in order to get rid of anyone who is an obstacle to our growth in power, ​​manufacturing biological and chemical weapons and using them freely seem most justifiable and comprehensible!(?)

 

Notes:

[1] Take for example, in August 2019, American research has confirmed that Colorado rainwater contains plastic particles. See article “It’s raining plastic: microscopic fibers fall from the sky in Rocky Mountains“; The Guardian, 13 August 2020.

[2] The British Guardian recently reported that Cabrio, a biotechnology company, has successfully produced a mutant bacterial enzyme that can destroy plastic bottles in a matter of hours. See article in The Guardian, 8 April 2020: “Scientists create mutant enzyme that recycles plastic bottles in hours: Bacterial enzyme originally found in compost can be used to make high-quality new bottles”.