keyboard_coffee2This week The Beast Without website and blog will have been public for three months. It has been an interesting experience, and now seems as good a time as any for a brief pause to reflect; an intermission of sorts. For such a young site, we already receive a surprising amount of traffic – especially from ‘regular users’ – and that’s very gratifying. So may I offer a very big and sincere thank you to all you repeat visitors, and I hope I can maintain your interest going forward.

So far I have written 8 posts (this is the 9th). Some of these have had to be very long and somewhat technical (the subject matter is often too controversial to risk a charge of trivialisation), and I am aware that they often require a degree of dedicated reading. I had contemplated paginating the very long posts, but unless you are using a magazine-layout format, this addition doesn’t really make too much sense – just another level of complexity that seems somewhat pointless (I’m not sure clicking a number link is any less taxing than scrolling down).

Di, as my chief proofreader and copy-editor, reckons it’s entirely unnecessary and potentially clumsy and so has recommended I don’t. But if any of the regular readers of The Beast Without would prefer pagination, and feel it would make reading easier, please let me know.


The Philippi aftermath

The incident in Philippi and the rapid developments thereafter demanded a series of somber and content-rich postings one after the other. As I said at the outset of this project, I favour more of a mix between info-postings and more personal stuff, but I guess the fluid nature of this topic is always going to dictate content to a large extent.

In the weeks since I set out writing these pieces, and as a result of the online research it required, it’s been disconcerting to discover a surfeit of new fundraising groups, on-the-ground organisations, activist cells and various internet sites (especially on facebook, where activism is just a ‘like’ button away) specifically addressing the issue of township dogs in South Africa. Ultimately, I’m left wondering if this amazing energy couldn’t be better utilised. Too much of what is popping up seems simply to be replicating past mistakes: an obsession with ‘rescue’, an uncritical faith in mass (and often compulsory) sterilization, and a pervasive sense of a particularly unhelpful (but very South African) form of paternalistic judgmentalism.

The entire subject of free-ranging animals seems still to attract an unseemly amount of condescension in this country, and this is doubtlessly aggravated by the sheer magnitude of cultural and class-based presumptions about how ‘the other’ does things that is still so common. The fact that none of these circumstances currently being experienced are in any way specific to South Africa gets lost in this swirl of moral indignation – so much of the narrative remains obscured in a soup of uninformed prejudgment.

This has been a blight on the management of companion animals in South Africa for generations, and it’s frustrating to see it being so eagerly replicated just at the point when we really, really need a far more informed, balanced and scientific approach. That, in a nutshell, was the rationale underlying the launch of The Beast Without. So perhaps a counter-view is indeed too long overdue, and I need to pull my finger out a bit more.


Compliments from other bloggers – linking back


In July there were two posts from other blogsites which mentioned and linked to The Beast Without. Both were extremely complimentary, and so I am mentioning them and providing reciprocal links back to each. On the 18th July Derek at ‘Hopeful Homeless’ posted a piece titled ‘Tragedy and Travesty at Philippi’ briefly describing the incident at Sweet Homes Farm, and at the end linked back to my piece ‘Dog Kill Toddler in Cape Town with the recommendation: “Read this excellent article which deals with the behavioural dynamics in more detail”.

The Hopeful Homeless Foundation appears to be an initiative to provide and consolidate various resources pertaining to street animals and make them available online, and the blog is primarily advocacy-oriented. There is a ‘virtual shelter’, as well as a forum and links to other resources. My general request is that more focus is given to keeping animals in the communities they currently reside in, providing whatever veterinary and welfare assistance is required and helping the people cope better with the dogs in situ.

(Unfortunately the film which is posted employs Window MMV 9’s proprietary ‘SRR2 codec’, and is therefore not viewable on a Mac. Short of converting the video entirely using File Juicer (which I don’t have), not even VLC, Flip4Mac or Perian will play it on a Mac – attention please Derek!).




On the 29th July, the blogsite ‘Sudden, Random, Unprovoked and Violent – Pit Bulls, their journalists and advocates and the humane movement’ (SRUV) published a very complimentary piece about The Beast Without, and in particular, my piece titled Pit Bulls: Part 1. The author also posted a thoughtful comment following the post, referenced another comment made by Merritt Clifton on my ‘labels shape expectations’ post, and sent me a very encouraging email from the contact page. Thank you very much for the engagement and your kind words.

Whilst the SRUV website very clearly promotes an uncompromising  perspective on the profoundly polarized Pit Bull issue, it provides one of most comprehensively researched and articulate resources for anyone seriously interested in the complexities of this topic. I especially want to thank the writer for acknowledging the importance of a non-didactic approach if any progress is ever to be made on this issue. And I will provide a considered response to the comment s/he  wrote on the Pit Bull: Part 1 post very soon:



Some housekeeping, and information about facebook ‘like’ problems

For those who have found yourselves wrestling with the facebook ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons on this site, only to have either text without images or images without explanation appearing on your walls, all I can do is offer my sincerest apologies. Some months ago facebook changed their protocol for the ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons (to what they describe as the ‘Open Graph Protocol’), and since then websites all over the place have been in an ongoing and never resolving fight with facebook’s ‘support for developers’ team.dislike200

In short I have tried 11 different wordpress plugin options, variously designed to provide the buttons and count for ‘like’ and ‘share’, or specifically to force facebook to read and use certain images, or to properly formulate metatags for facebook’s OGP. Each page has been ‘linted’ repeatedly, and all the tags read perfectly well on the URL linter (for those who understand the process). I have tried the very complex and all encompassing, and the really simple and straightforward.

What a lousy joke! I will continue my frustrating battle, but may eventually just develop my own buttons and install them manually for every post (although that doesn’t seem to have worked either for many who post on the developer’s forums). In the meantime, the ‘facebook’ link on the ‘Sociable’ social bookmark string that appears just above the ‘like’ button does seem to do a far better job of reading the site and including both summary and image when sent from there.

And when sending mail from the “contact” page – please remember to provide the answer to the very simple sum before submitting the message – a number of people still seem to spend time on that page but I don’t receive their mailings.




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  • Claire G

    I’m glad the blog is doing so well. Our society needs more of your informative articles that is this well researched and scientifically backed up. May the blog go from strength to strength.

  • Derek

    Hiya Mike yes I know about the Mac issue, and while I will endeavour to make a plan, having as far as I know 2 Mac users does not make it a high priority. I read your later articles on township dogs and will definitely link to that when I talk about the ignorance and intransigence that dominates this scenario. Thanks!