In Part 3 of the Yulin series, we saw how a large percentage of dogs that end up in the dog-meat trade are stolen pets, and how the remainder are either strays, or pets that are sold by their owners when they become old or sick.
We also learned that while over 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are slaughtered and eaten in China annually, dog- and cat-meat is not popular, and the majority of people have never eaten it, or have only tried it very rarely.
In this article, part 5 of our 6-part blog series, we look at the response within China to the dog-meat trade, by 1) examining the laws and policies protecting animals, and 2) looking at Chinese animal welfare activism and where that is trending.
The French writer, Simone de Beauvoir once wrote that she was told by the poet Ai Ts’ing, “we eat everything: everything on four legs except the table; and except for our friends and relations, everything on two.”
While obviously a joke (although Cantonese cuisine is not terribly far away from this), the idea has its roots in the Mao era, when there were large-scale famines, and where survival meant that people had to resort to eating (almost) anything.
In modern-day China, there is no similar food shortage, and today, animal lovers in China are adamant that people should no longer resort to eating companion animals, and that the dog- and cat-meat trade should be outlawed and banned.
The dog-meat traders, on the other hand, say that dogs are livestock, and should be treated no differently than any other livestock animals, and that it is their right to eat dog-meat if they so choose.
Outside of the dog-meat trade, China offers almost no protections of any kind to any animals, birds, fish, or reptiles.
Let’s take a look at some of the facts:
The Tibetan antelope were poached close to extinction in the 1980s.
Bear-bile farming, a means of enslaving Asiatic bears in horrendous confinement and extracting bile from their gall-bladders, continues to this day, and is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, despite there being many synthetic alternatives available.
China also has the largest fur trade, and millions of raccoons, foxes, mink, and other animals are cruelly and inhumanely skinned for their fur annually.
WHAT DOES THE CHINESE LAW SAY?
From a legal perspective, there are no nationwide laws that explicitly prohibit the mistreatment of animals.
While there is a Wildlife Protection law, dating from 1988, this law is aimed at banning the ivory trade and the rhino horn trade, but the law also states that the principle purpose of wildlife animals is for human domestication and consumption. It appears that nobody consulted the rhino or the elephant!
The responsibility for implementing these laws has been decentralized to state and local governments, and there has been a plethora of complaints about poor or non-existent enforcement of these laws.
Outside of the Wildlife Protection Law, there are no laws that protect domestic animals such as cats and dogs.
Although there were several attempts to introduce more comprehensive animal welfare laws and policies in 2006 (Zhou Ping) and 2009 (Animal protection law of the People’s Republic of China), neither made it very far.
While there are no laws protecting animals in China, there is a fast-growing animal welfare activism movement, in particular with younger Chinese people, who are sick and tired of the backward and wanton mistreatment of animals at all levels.
These young activists are working tirelessly to end:
the wet and live markets where animals, birds, and reptiles - wild and domestic -are slaughtered in public
the cat and dog-meat trade where many people’s pets are stolen and brutally murdered
the exotic meat trade that serves up rare and exotic species such as snake meat and pangolin meat as delicacies in some regions
the bear-bile trade where bears are enslaved and cruelly confined for bile extraction for use in alternative medicine practices
the intense factory-farming methods used in the world’s largest meat-producing country using methods imported from the West
the inhumane animal performance industry where animals are forced to perform for the entertainment of humans, largely at animal circuses
WHAT OTHER ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATIONS ARE DOING
The first animal welfare network in China, is the Chinese Animal Protection Network (CPAN), which began in 2004 by Dr. Julia Wang.
The organization has a multi-pronged approach to animal rights and animal welfare, such as:
advocating for better conditions for laboratory animals used in the cosmetics industry
popularizing and educating Chinese people about vegetarianism
ending the indiscriminate culling of animals for population control, and
building out advocacy groups
Their first project, the Chinese Companion Animal Protection Network, campaigned against the cat-and dog-meat trade. This campaign was supported by international groups such as the UK-based Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the World Animal Protection organization.
Duo Duo Project itself has been approved as a legal entity by the government of Mudanjiang, infamously known as the only city in China to have two sanctioned dog slaughterhouses.
This hard-earned legal status, which has been granted to a very few U.S. non-profits, means that Duo Duo Project can legally work directly with local NGOs dedicated to ending the cruel trade.
It’s likely the COVID-19 pandemic was the impetus for the Mudanjiang government granting this important status to Duo Duo Project. The fact that Duo Duo Project has been on the ground in China since 2014 lending help and expertise to local groups also factored into the decision.
You can read more about Duo Duo Project here: https://www.duoduoproject.org/what-we-do
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE OF ANIMAL WELFARE IN CHINA
Attitudes to animal welfare in China certainly seem to be changing and moving towards acceptance that wild and farmed animals, along with companion animals, deserve to be treated humanely.
A 2011 study on Chinese citizens’ perceptions on farm animal welfare revealed that though 2/3 of the people polled had never heard of the term animal welfare, a similar number of respondents expressed support for animal welfare laws and over half were willing to pay more for humanely-raised and slaughtered animal products. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4196765/)
This is a step in the right direction, but there is a lot more work to be done and we need your help! We can start by ending the horrific Yulin Festival.
JOIN US and on-the-ground Chinese animal activists in the fight for the humane treatment of animals.