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Taiwan: Debate over kitten-slayer case

A National Taiwan University graduate student, Lee Nien Lung, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in the end of March 2010 under the charge of animal cruelty. The sentence given to Lee Nien-lung by the Taipei District Court for abusing and killing three cats is the longest in Taiwan’s history.

Animal cruelty has been considered as minor offense in Taiwan, the cat-killer case in 2006 was only resulted in a 50,000 NTD fine (around 1,500 USD) — as animals are considered as a property rather than life in legal term. In 2007, the animal protection law in Taiwan was amended due to public pressure. For extreme cases, the penalty can be up to one year imprisonment and 1,000,000 NTD fine, and full disclosure for the offender identity. The evidences in Lee's case were gathered jointly by netizens and cat lovers, who found out that Lee was at least involved in 7 cat deaths.

Evidence gathered by netizens

A blog, antiabuse, was set up to collect evidence and follow the serial cat killer case. It provides a detailed description of how netizens dig out the case:

2008/09/28中午,ptt網友September11在研一男舍垃圾桶內發現三隻小貓屍體,於宿舍版發文請求處理。網友目視,三隻小貓年紀都不超過一個月。後有網友指出曾在某間宿舍門口聽到貓叫聲。懷生社同學會同當初通報同學調閱監視錄影帶後,因錄影機位置因素,並無拍到棄屍人,而後可能因為清潔人員清掃的關係,也無法找到小貓屍體。最後在10/23因證據不足,以誤會一場結案。

At around noon time on 28 of September 2008, a netizen, September 11, found 3 dead bodies of kittens in the garbage bins of graduate student dormitory and posted an article in the hall's bbs. According to his description, the three kittens were less than a month old. Another netizens said that he heard some cats’ scream from a dormitory room, however, after watching the cctv tapes, the student association, Life concern, could not identify any suspect and they could no longer found the dead kitten bodies. The case was considered a misunderstanding due to the lack of evidences on 23 of October 2008.

2008/10/10下午,ptt ID dodoson在ptt台灣大學 獸醫系97級班板詢問台大總圖旁的貓,網友catjoelee發現送醫。醫師指出貓有腦水腫的跡象,預後不良且醫藥費昂貴。最後貓被施以安樂死,由 catjoelee交給系上教授提供學術研究之用,目前已聯絡上該教授,且遺體已交由動檢所處理。dodoson事後寫信希望要回貓屍,留下電話 0958xxxxx8,catjoelee以貓屍已經在系上教授冰櫃為由回絕。已聯絡上送養人,送養人指出領養人為李xx。

In the afternoon of 10 October 2008, netizen, catjoelee, found a severely injured kitten outside the library of Vet Department in NTU. catjoelee brought the cat to the vet and it was diagnosed with brain damage. Eventually the cat were put to sleep and catjoelee hand the body to the professor of Vet department for academic propose. Later he found out that the cat belonged to a user dodoson in PPT forum and he told him about the situation. dodoson later said that he wanted to have the kitten's dead body back and left his phone number 0958xxxxx8. catjoelee rejected his requested as the cat had already been handed to the professor of the Vet Department. Later catjoelee managed to find the person who gave away the kitten who identified Lee as the adopter.

2008/11/29 凌晨,ptt ID Meanings在ptt台灣大學 懷生社社版通報有小貓重傷。同時間由其他網友發現並送太僕動物醫院(台北市龍江路260號)急診,醫生研判傷重建議安樂死,並將屍體拍照後火化。…2009/02/21經貓咪論壇中途白狼指認,確定為白狼網友於11/27號送出的中途貓,且經由照片指認確認認養人為台灣大學 博士班學生李xx。

At around midnight on 29 of November 2008, another netizen found a seriously injured cat in NTU and bought it to the emergency ward of an animal hospital. The vet suggested Euthanansia. The netizen took photo of the dead body before it was cremated… On 21 of Feb, user, white wolf, of cat forum identified Lee, a PhD student in NTU as the adopter of the cat.

2009/02/21 22兩天,經多名中途指認曾經送養貓給李xx,並另有多名中途指出此人曾在多處表明希望認養貓,如果認養不到便會對該中途騷擾謾罵。

Between 21 and 22 of Feb 2009, a number of people identify Lee as kitten adopters and some pointed out that Lee had been adopting cats in various forums and would harass those who refused to give the cats to him.

As a result of netizens’ joint effort, five victims (those who gave the kittens to Lee) reported the case to the police and testified in the court. Moreover, some witnesses provided the court with more evidences on Lee's cruelty. One of them said Lee, “in an effort to relief the pain of a kitten hit by a vehicle”, put the kitten inside an activated dry machine. Another said Lee once caught a kitten with a towel and flung it to the ground. The kitten was tortured to unconsciousness.

Before the trial on 20 of January 2010, aletheia wrote a letter to the Prosecutor comparing animal abuse with child abuse. The letter has been re-posted in many forums and blogs:

動物無法說話和欠缺感受痛的能力完全無關,更因為動物的五感能力超越人類,
其所感受的痛苦更為強烈。
牠們不說話也不代表欠缺定罪證據的一環,正因為牠們欠缺受害者發聲的能力,
正因為牠們就如同人類嬰兒般脆弱沒有任何的自我辯護能力,
才值得我們成年人更仔細的翻查對如此暴虐違反人性的疑犯,對其做出最強烈的指責。

Although animal can not speak, but they can feel. In fact they are more sensitive than human in their five senses.
The pain that they suffer is more than what we can feel.
Even though they don't speak doesn't mean that we are in lack of evidence. On the contrary, because they cannot speak as a victim, similar to the case of human baby, we, as adult human should take up the responsibility to condemn such kind anti humanity act.

Animal as human property in the law book

Animal lovers are pleased to see the result of the 18-month imprisonment sentence, but blogger Woosean thinks otherwise:

殺貓博士再怎麼變態,他殺的是貓,是動物,而不是同於你我的人類,
這些幼貓只要不屬於任何人的財產,殺貓博士的行為就不算侵害到任何人,
相反地,若這些幼貓真的屬於什麼人,大可對殺貓博士訴請經濟報償,
更有甚者,在找到殺貓博士其他暴力或侵權行為以前,他還真是個無害的人,
就跟在維吉尼亞州森林裡打獵的胖老美或在板橋釣蝦場裡享受鉤殺蝦子之樂的台灣人一樣,
他毫無必要地奪走幼貓的生命,就像你毫無必要地奪走肉雞全家的生命一樣,
他唯一能夠被批評的,是他對待以致於奪走幼貓生命的方式,
但這種批評終究是感情性的,同樣的批評可以應用在所有牲畜屠宰場裡,
不用太高的智商與藝術造詣就能將海產店描繪成血腥的煉獄,
而不變的事實是:打獵、釣蝦、吃活魚與虐殺(非他人財產的)貓都同樣無害,
結果前三項被默許,虐殺貓者被關十八個月…

No matter how perversive this Dr. Kitten-slayer is, he is killing cat, animal, not us, human. If these kittens are not properties of any person, the act of Dr. Kitten-slayer does no harm to anyone. If they belong to someone, the Dr. Kitten-slayer can give a compensation. If you can't find other violent behavior or acts that bring damage to other, he is still a harmless person. He is as innocent as those fat Yanks hunting in the Virginia Forest or Taiwanese hooking shrimps in Banciao Shrimp Farm. Dr. Kitten-slayer takes away kittens’ lives casually just as you do to the chicken. He is condemned for the ways how he killed the kittens. However such judgment is too sentimental. It only takes some vivid narrations from people with average intelligence and literary sense in order to paint the slaughterhouses and seafood restaurants as a bloody hell. The truth is: hunting, shrimp hooking, eating fresh fish and killing kittens (without owner) are not harmful while only kitten killer is sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. …

There are around 193 comments from the post so far. 竹林茶苑 commented in a neutral tone:

动物与人类的价值是有很大区别的。不过如果虐杀动物变成长期的心理压抑成为一种可能对人类或社会的伤害也 是不可不防的。…其实处罚虐待动物的动机是什么值得商榷,是为了法律而法律还是为了惩戒或者是防范这类恶劣行为可能会发展在人类身上?

We value human life and animal life differently. However, we have to be cautious about the long term psychological impact of which may cause danger to mankind or human society…. In fact, we have to clarify the motivation regarding the punishment of the animal abuser. Whether it is purely an act of law, or a form of punishment, or a prevention of such terrible act from happening to human being?

Lee is now filing an appeal to the higher court to review the sentence. The debate regarding animal rights will continue to become a hot issue in Taiwan.

4 comments

  • makelle

    Now, why do animal lovers give their pets away to unknown, presumably an animal tormentor?

    I’ve seen too many abandoned cats these days that I believe you actually should have a license to keep pets in the first place.

    This would, of course, not solve the problem completely but surely it could prevent people getting the custody without some guarantee that pets won’t be hurt unnecessarily and e g abandoned cats could be traced back to whom abandoned them in the first place.

    I don’t think such a license need to be authorized by legal authorities but rather by local animal protection agencies and communities.

  • […] Yeh at Global Voices Online covers animal cruelty laws in […]

  • Jennifer Mc Cleary

    For people who disagree with this sentence, I have one thing to say: People who torture animals are psychotic and lack empathy and remorse. Serial killers have historically been known to torture animals in their youth. They serve as easy targets and they satisfy an uncontrollable urge to kill. Torturing animals is the stepping stone to killing even larger prey: Humans. This sick individual obviously needs imprisonment and psychiatric help if he is to function normally in society. As a society we are so anthropocentrically focused, thinking only of human life as important. I beg to differ, as animals have the same pain threshold and emotional capabilities as humans, and as such, do not deserve this kind of torture and anguish. Animal torturers and the people who turn a blind eye to them are inhumane and criminal.

  • Rachel Page

    Cases of animal abuse ending with jail time are rare. The law only protects rare and endangered animals and is not applicable to domestic animals such as dogs and cats. Bankruptcy Lawyer help San Antonio

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