Chinese dog meat trade fetches international opposition
Throughout July, animal advocates achieved a few minor victories in the greater struggle against the Chinese dog meat trade. Over 1,400 dogs were spared from slaughter at the eleventh hour in the first few rescues coordinated by China Animal Protection Power (CAPP), a Humane Society International (HSI) task force (Humane Society International, 2016, July 1).
Members of CAPP, a dog welfare advocacy group under the direction of HSI, spotted the dogs in trucks bound for slaughterhouses in the Yunnan province of southwest China. Activists intercepted the trucks and, with the aid of local authorities, engaged the drivers in rescue efforts lasting up to 50 hours. Although desperately needed food, water, and shade were provided to the dehydrated and exhausted dogs, at least 30 dogs did not survive this final leg of their inhumane treatment. The surviving dogs will receive veterinary care and proper treatment until they are healthy enough to be placed for adoption, thanks to funding by HSI (Humane Society International, 2016, July 1).
These were the first efforts by the HSI task force which was established in late June by Humane Society International following the annual Yulin Dog Meat Trade Festival. Opposition to the festival, which is responsible for the annual slaughter of up to 10,000 dogs, has been the impetus for HSI’s growing anti-dog meat trade efforts (Humane Society International, 2016, June 20). The rescues are just one part of a multi-faceted campaign by HSI to abolish the dog meat trade across China and eventually Asia (Humane Society International, 2016).
According to Humane Society’s Wayne Nacelle, the festival “is a terrifying and intense reminder of the horrors of the Chinese dog meat trade” (2016). In the past 6 years, 10,000 dogs are reported to have been slaughtered annually for the event; a mere fraction of the estimated 30 million dogs murdered in slaughterhouses per year around Asia. According to the World Health Organization, the dog meat trade “spreads rabies and increases the risk of cholera 20-fold,” due to the unhygienic conditions imposed on the dogs, both before and after their slaughter. Yulin did not have a historical industry for mass dog slaughter or consumption, until the festival’s 2010 creation by dog traders to improve profits (Humane Society International, 2016, June 20).
Outcry against the festival has been international in scope, taking form as celebrity opposition, the introduction of a congressional resolution, and a world-wide supported petition. In the United States, outspoken celebrities including Ricky Gervais and Simon Cowell, have launched protests and social media campaigns against the dog meat festival (Humane Society International, 2016, July 1). On the governmental level, American citizens are sending a message to the Chinese government through a congressional resolution, communicating the lack of acceptance of dog as food in the Western world. Wayne Pacelle from the Humane Society states that,
The resolution, which has 27 original cosponsors, doesn’t have the force of law, but it’s an opportunity for the United States to urge the government of China and Yulin authorities to protect against pet dogs being stolen and sold into the meat trade. It calls for a ban on the killing and eating of dogs and urges China to enact an anti-animal cruelty law banning the dog meat trade” (2016).
Another major impact was made with the joint-petition by HSI, Beijing Mothers Against Cruelty, and Vshine, signed by 11 million people against the infamous dog meat festival (Denyer and Ginglu, 2016).
Although clearly prevalent, the consumption of dog meat is not widespread in Chinese culture. According to Chinese polling company Horizon, the majority, 69.5 percent, of Chinese citizens have never eaten dog meat (Humane Society International, 2016, June 20). The practice is argued by Lu, Bayne, and Wang (2013) to have its roots in the resourcefulness of Chinese peasants during times of poverty. Proponents of dog meat consumption claim the traditional Chinese practice is thousands of years old and attribute to it a variety of health benefits. Although the consumption of “novel foods” including dogs, cats, bugs, and sharks fins, is a fad in relatively advanced Chinese cities, the Horizon poll reports that 51.7 percent of Chinese citizens support a complete ban on the dog meat trade. While opposition to institutional violence against dogs grows in China, advocacy by local groups has increased overall, often concentrating efforts on well-publicized events such as the notorious Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
Many animal advocacy groups in China originated following the introduction of a translated copy of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation in the 1990’s. However, the belief in animal rights is neither novel nor solely Western, as the Chinese Animal Protection Network points out, claiming “the three pillars of Chinese tradition, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, all have teachings regarding respect toward the lives of animals — they are the essence of animal rights.” (Lu, Bayne, and Wang, 2013). Nevertheless, upset revolving the dog meat trade and the festival is invariably led by “Younger generations of Chinese, who are becoming more urban and adopting a culture of pet care and companionship” (Humane Society International, 2016, July 1).
While the abolition of the Chinese dog meat trade is sure to be a victory for animal advocates worldwide and is imperative to obtaining justice for dogs, the success confers serious implications. On its most fundamental level, the concept of animal rights implies equality in the consideration of all animals. In light of the predominating pet culture in the Western world, renouncing the inhumane treatment of dogs while perpetuating that of animals deemed “fit for consumption” invariably widens the gap within speciesism, an obvious contradiction to the goal of advancing animal rights.
Denyer, S., & Ginglu, J. (2016, June 10). Activists gather 11 million signatures against China’s infamous dog-meat festival. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 3, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/10/china-stop-eating-dogs-animal-rights-activists-campaign-against-annual-festival-of-slaughter/#comments
Humane Society International. (2016, June 20). 20 dogs rescued from slaughter just one day ahead of China's Yulin dog meat festival, photos [Press release]. Hsi.org. Retrieved August 3, 2016, from http://www.hsi.org/news/press_releases/2016/06/yulin-rescue-20-dogs-062016.html
Humane Society International. (2016, July 1). Chinese Activists Rescue 400 Dogs Bound for Meat Trade Slaughter in 50-Hour Standoff [Press release]. hsi.org. Retrieved August 1, 2016, from http://www.hsi.org/news/press_releases/2015/06/kunming-dog-meat-truck-rescue-070115.html
Lu, J., Bayne, K., & Wang, J. (2013). Current status of animal welfare and animal rights in China. ATLA, 41, 351-357.
Pacelle, W. (2016, May 25). Dog butchering raising howls in Congress and throughout the world [Web log post]. Retrieved August 3, 2016, from http://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2016/05/congressional-resolution-condemns-yulin-dog-meat-festival.html