This is a response to Janine Liolios article: The management of free-roaming dogs in Rhodes, Greece: a multi-stakeholder approach
As External Examiner for Janine’s thesis – the source of her abridged, current article – I’d like to re-iterate what a fine piece of work that is. Maybe a little long but, other than that, it adroitly fuses (some) discipline and (plenty of) endeavour with the fine, admirable qualities of flair, originality and perception. Cleverly presented and ‘illustrated’, it is an engaging read that reflects Janine’s enthusiasm and concern for her subject. The requisite brevity of her subsequent, condensed version/article only goes some way towards reflecting these qualities. On reading her work….. thesis and article…. a range of thoughts and images came to mind. Here, now, in response, is a brief mention of one or two of my seemingly eclectic, tangential and, admittedly dis-jointed, responses prompted by Janine’s approach to dogs and tourism.
Dogs? Man’s Best Friend? As if.
What does tourism and the canine world have in common? For the answer, look no further than Sparrow’s (2013, p. 44) erudite, perceptive observation “That indefatigable and unsavoury engine of pollution, the dog.” Too many dogs: too many tourists. A cull of both, perhaps?
According to Diamant, an eminent whale shark conservation biologist, “Tourism is only a threat if it is out of control” (Fletcher, 2019, p.29). Sounds good. Except for one fundamental flaw….namely, that tourism is, actually, out of control. Always has been: always will be. This despite consistent – yet consistently erroneous – nebulous claims to the contrary: claims that are continuingly being perpetrated by tourism planners (who should know better).
Wasn’t the nonsense of sustainable tourism supposed to be the panacea to tourism’s troubled times? Slow steady sustainable growth was surely the answer, the way forward. In theory, yes. But add a dose of reality (for ‘reality’ read greed/selfish avarice etc.) into the mix and what do we have in practice? Globally, overwhelming numbers of tourists. Specifically, ‘honey-pots’ morph into the rash of ‘overtourism’ – an epidemic soon to be pandemic.
Is this (apparent) scourge really a surprise to anyone with a modicum of common sense? Something new? Or just simply the latest manifestation of tourism’s perceived negative impacts. We’ve been peddled the absurdity of sustainable tourism for the past couple of decades. It’s ridiculous. All tourism requires some form of transport. No form of transport is sustainable. Therefore, (surprise, surprise) we can’t have sustainable tourism.
Actually, no surprise at all – with respect to traveller/tourist continuum we are riddled with hypocrisy…‘Visit a destination before the tourists spoil it’ syndrome. It is a gilt-edged, guilt free passport to irrational and inconsistent behaviour.
Hypocrisy is rife, too, in our relationship with animals. It seems to me that when it comes to animals and tourism insufficient academic attention is given over to the dead (animals, that is, not tourists). In particular, the negative emotions generated by graphic images of dead carcasses. One of my lasting, appalling memories of an (otherwise wonderful) time in Tasmania is the indelible sight of innumerable, bloodied decaying carcasses littering the road side…roadkill in all its splendour. Repugnant, yet stimulating, to the senses. The carnage made me think.
Imagine the scene: you decide to visit friends in the countryside. Driving at night a rabbit jumps out, trapped in your headlights. In such circumstances few would deliberately kill. If safe, you take effective ‘eco-action’. You slow down to avoid the animal, which hops to safety. By being considerate, you have preserved wild-life. Everyone is happy. You continue your journey oblivious to the environmental damage you are inevitably inflicting. A reality reminder: when you stop, take off the radiator grill or, even more apparent, check out the windscreen and there you see the thousand splattered insects that you, and your journey, have killed. But that’s OK. Collateral damage. You saved the rabbit. You know perfectly well what you are doing (and the consequences thereof) but have the mental capacity to ignore these repercussions. You don’t take evasive ‘eco-action’ for the unattractive/repulsive species: you don’t slow down or cancel your journey for them. You modify your behaviour only when it suits, but never sufficiently to seriously inconvenience yourself (or in this case your friends … assuming, that is, they are looking forward to seeing you in the first place).
But dead animals do have a role to play in tourism….as tourist attraction. Next time you are in either Oxford (UK) or Melbourne (Australia) may I suggest you take the opportunity to check out my two favourite, exhibited stuffed animals: both, in their own way, creatures of distinction. The splendid African shoebill on display in Oxford’s Natural History Museum and/or the legendary Phar Lap, the famed racehorse, it too resplendent in National Museum of Australia, Melbourne.
Another ‘red herring’. Too many dogs? Too many tourists? Too many students as well, perhaps? No, never ever too many students. Impossible. After all, irrespective of status and our respective lots in life, we are all, in fact, ‘students of life’. Or, at least, we should be. And every day is a classroom, or it should be.
Maybe the Breda University can take the lead from a recent initiative, introduced by the UK’s University of East Anglia, as reported in ‘Dog walks help students hounded by work’ (Horton, 2019 p.11). According to her, the University has received funding to help improve student well-being through physical activity; part of the money will go towards ‘pet therapy’ which, in turn, will afford the students the opportunity of being able to go on walks with dogs (lent by academics and members of the public) to nearby locales, Cromer beach and Thetford forest. Elaborating, research by Jones from the Norwich Medical School suggests that the benefits of dog-walking are significant – “Our studies have shown that dog walking helps people to maintain their physical activity levels. In addition, it is known that there are a wide range of social and mental benefits” (op cit). As many students live away from their family pets, so having contact with animals while studying can be stress-relieving.
But rather than take someone else’s dog for a walk, I’d suggest that students at Breda University should, perhaps, leave the dog behind and forget about the dog walking entirely. Instead, unleash your inner self, let your fertile thoughts flourish and embark on your own Walk of Life (Billie Piper’s rendition, thereof, as opposed to Dire Straits) – keeping in mind, all the while, that ‘the doors of imagination must never close’.