Cats in Belgium ... and less important matters

The Guardian has a rather, shall we say, special way of looking at the world ... and of course I value it greatly. But it is extraordinarily Brito-centric. So, while attempts to form a federal government in Belgium are floundering, the Guardian could hardly be expected to make that it's main story about Belgium. No, there's something else that they know the bulk of their readership will find far more important: the impending doom for Belgium's burgeoning cat population.

Belgium plans to neuter most cats as feline population explodes

Almost all Belgian cat owners will be obliged to have their pets
sterilised and registered by 2016

Guardian, 3 September 2010

Still, I learned something I didn't know.

Cat culls have a long history in Belgium. In Ypres, in western Flanders, they've been hurling the animals from the belfry of the 12th-century Cloth Hall for hundreds of years in an annual ritual to ward off the devil.

The massacre continues, now every three years. But nowadays the cats are fluffy, velveteen toys.

Bagpuss is horrified. He's wondering whether it might be better to throw politicians from the belfry instead.


However, for those whose who might be interested in what's happening in Belgian politics, the answer is that the talks to form a federal government have now collapsed. The situation last weekend has developed in these ways. Di Rupo offered to split the extra finance he wanted for Brussels into two parts: €250m a year now, set alongside splitting Brussels Halle-Vilvoorde; and €250m a year as a fixed part of any future deal on a new funding formula for the three regions. De Wever said he would only accept immediate additional funding for Brussels if it was for a maximum of two years, with no fixed sum pre-allocated to Brussels in whatever new deal was agreed. So Di Rupo went back to the king to tender his resignation as preformateur for a second time.

A selection of reports is here.

What happens next? My guess is that things will cool down for a while, so as to see what less formal, unofficial talks might yield. However, it isn't quite fair to understand this as only a Flanders vs Wallonia issue, it is also a matter of simple right vs left politics. Both the big parties in Flanders are centre-right, so the financial reform they want is as much about overall deficit and debt reduction (and the balance to be struck between reducing services or increasing taxes to pay for it, and how quickly) as it is about sharing spending between the three regions.

But the choices are stark. Either a compromise deal is done and a federal government formed or, if no deal can be done, Flanders and Wallonia will have to separate. But there's no rush, it can wait another month or so.

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Senn the Cartoonist said...

'Bagpuss is horrified. He's wondering whether it might be better to throw politicians from the belfry instead'

very amusing!

Anonymous said...

tho i realise you are being jocular in highlighting the guardian's coverage of the alleged 'cat plague' currently afflicting belgium there is sadly a history in europe of draconian measures being taken against our beautiful feline friends.

During the witchcraze that dominated medieval europe for almost 3 centuries there were mass slaughters of cats..,indeed anyone owning a cat would be suspected of being in league with the devil. And even many decades after the witchcraze had subsided it was still common for folk to demonstrate their committment to their 'christian' beliefs by publicy slaughtering cats on so called 'holy days'

While in recent years in italy its estimated that 60,000 cats a year have been slaughtered by ignorant stupid folk who believe cats bring bad luck.

While animal charities in the uk can all too readily testify to the regular acts of cruelty cats are subject too on the shores!

In view of these sad facts it might then interest people to know that the medieval King of Wales Hywel Dda (the Good) passed legislation making it illegal to kill or harm a cat.

Leigh Richards

Anonymous said...

I've always been dismissive of the laws of Hywel Dda. But his defence of kitty rights gets my support!

Anonymous said...

The Guardian is a strange paper. It has some of the best commentary (Charlie Brooker etc.) and in depth analysis of minority cultural, political, and classic "bleeding-heart" stories like the cat one.

At the same time they (and the readership) seem to show an almost sneering contempt for minority interests at "home". Just look at the comments left on any of the recent S4C articles there. Under the veneer of progressivism there's still a strong, but understated, British chauvinism.

Back on topic, how long can/will Belgium last? I'm well aware these negotiations take time but they seem to get longer with every election. Are any of the parties pushing for a partition referendum?

Unknown said...

it's started! From today's Le Figaro:

"Belgique : les Wallons lèvent le tabou de la scission

05/09/2010 | Mise à jour : 19:40

Après l'échec des négociations entre Flamands et francophones, les politiques wallons évoquent pour la première fois une éventuelle scission.

L'hypothèse d'une scission du pays commence à faire son chemin dans le monde politique belge francophone. Plusieurs représentants de premier plan ont ouvertement évoqué cette éventualité dimanche après l'échec des négociations entre Wallons et indépendantistes Flamands qui auraient dû aboutir vendredi à la formation d'un gouvernement. Les déclarations sont toutes venues du parti socialiste, vainqueur des récentes élections législatives du 13 juin en Wallonie."

Sorry - can't be bothered to translate - but Google does an OK job.

Of course, the Flemish are evoking scare scenarios about the breakup - nothing we are not familiar with!

A very prescient post MH - well done!

BTW I still hate cats!

MH said...

You're obviously a cat person, Leigh. I didn't know about Hywel Dda on cats (a 4d fine for killing a mouser) but I approve.


Anon 12:34, don't get me wrong, I really like the Guardian, but it hardly ever deals with Wales and Scotland. However there have been two very good exceptions of late: S4C as you mention (because they're good on media) and the Cardiff local section.


That's very interesting, Siônnyn. I don't think I've heard quite that tone from the Francophone side before. It appears they are seriously thinking about how Belgium might split, even though they don't want it. Before now the attitude has been either to dismiss the idea of a split out of hand, or say that it could only be done with their consent ... which they had no intention of giving.

Anonymous said...

I think Hywel Dda had it in for mice, rather than any particular liking of cats...

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