Word of the Day: Hingher

On Saturday I wrote a lengthy piece about the current state of government policy on the stray dog issue here in Romania and in that article I mentioned the word hingher.

The problem with this word is that it doesn’t really translate properly into English. If you type it into an online dictionary it invariable comes out as “flayer”. But what does that even mean?

Let’s look at the DEX definition of hingher:

Persoană, în slujba serviciului de ecarisaj, care se ocupă cu prinderea câinilor vagabonzi.

Or in English (my translation):

A person, working on behalf of a rendering company, who is employed to capture stray dogs.

As far as I am aware, there is not a single city in Romania with a government department of “Animal Control”, a professional corp of public employees who capture stray and/or dangerous animals, including dogs. A few cities (notably Oradea) have “dog catchers” who work for non-profit organizations. Most other Romanian cities have private firms who get paid by the city government to catch dogs. But just about everywhere there are the hingheri, often gypsies but not necessarily so. And these people capture stray dogs in order to specifically sell them to rendering (Rom: ecarisaj) companies.

A lot of people have no idea what rendering even is, as the term is kind of bland and it’s a subject many people find (hypocritically, in my opinion) offensive. The only reason I know anything about it is because years ago I used to be a subscriber of Render Magazine (hey, I told you that I’ve had a strange life).

A good place to look for basic information is the wikipedia entry, which will inform you that rendering is the process of taking dead animal carcasses and converting them into something useful: lard (Rom: untura), grease, soap, fertilizer and even pet food.

Side note: this is one of the many reasons I do not feed my two cats anything sold in the store as “pet food”.

Therefore in Romania most stray dogs are being caught (and killed) by hingheri who sell the dog carcasses to a rendering company, to be turned into the various products. It’s a filthy, nasty business and that’s why it’s largely done by gypsies (although some ethnic Romanians do it for fun and profit).

While certainly something has to be done with dead animals (including livestock), paying unlicensed and unmonitored people to supply dead dogs to a for-profit company can only lead to abuse. I am quite confident that there have been plenty of beloved pets turned into soap by this process.

I realize not every city and town in Romania has the money (or frankly, the organizational skills) to establish a full-time corp of public employees (“Animal Control” Department) to capture and care for stray dogs and to dispose of dead animals. But as I said on Saturday, there are viable (and proven) options involving the generosity of both foreign and domestic non-profit organizations who could handle this work.

Nonetheless, in most cities, including my very own Cluj-Napoca, often the only people to call for dealing with stray and/or vicious dogs are still the hingheri.