Today (30th June), an item was posted on Canadian thestar.com titled ‘Animal rights spark new cultural war in China’.
”… BEIJING—Amid the clamour of a hectic outdoor farmer’s market, a German shepherd puppy stares through the wires of his filthy cage, a rusted coop he shares with three other dogs. Hidden deep in the mountains about 90 kilometres north of Nanning near China’s border with Vietnam, the market rattles with the squawk of chickens, the drone of motorcycles and the quiet whine of caged dogs.
Oblivious to the mayhem, the puppy sits obediently still. Just three or four months old, the tiny black-and-tan dog has the trusting calm of an animal that had once been a pet. Perhaps he ran away one night only to be abducted and trafficked into China’s dog meat industry. Maybe there was a little boy or girl still hoping he would come home.
It didn’t matter now.
Today he’d be slaughtered — butchered and sold for about 80 yuan, or $12.
As a pretty young dog he’d be doubly valued — for his flesh and his fur.
“Eating dog meat brings good luck,” says the dealer, who offers to kill and butcher any one of dozens of live dogs he has for sale. It’s healthy too, he explains, because the dogs are fed the same food as humans — scraps from the table.
This chaotic scene is repeated daily in China’s many outdoor markets and food-processing plants.
It is a growing industry that infuriates Chinese animal rights activists, who estimate at least 2 million cats and dogs are slaughtered each year in China — for food and for their fur. But even activists admit these estimates are unofficial and most likely low.
Now, the little dog — and the millions of dogs and cats like him — is at the heart of a cultural war in China, pitting old against young, urban against rural, and those who respect tradition against those who recognize the need for change.
At the centre of the debate is China’s refusal to enact animal cruelty legislation that has languished in draft form for more than two years.
Remarkably, Chinese authorities tolerate the pushback, allowing animal rights groups to train and recruit volunteers, protest on university campuses and vent their anger on the Internet. Dog and cat shelters proliferate. Newspapers and television stations report stories of dogs being rescued as they were being trucked to slaughter.
Jill Robinson, director of Animals Asia, is convinced many government officials are on board — especially those who have pets. Based in Hong Kong, Animals Asia assists 100 organizations operating in China by teaching volunteers how to work within the country’s laws and how to use the media.
“It’s important to recognize that China is changing, even the Chinese authorities are becoming more aware of the importance” of the roles of non-governmental organizations, says Su Pei, director of ACTAsia, an animal welfare group.
“They gradually understand that the work of NGOs could help the government with many of the social issues which are rapidly emerging throughout China under faster economic growth.”
She says organizations like hers are advocating for a “better and more compassionate society through animal issues — without violating the rule of law.”
Despite all this, Su worries things are getting worse for China’s animals.
“The level of animal abuse and exploitation by individuals and industries is accelerating in China.” She calls these growing industries — from bear bile farming to the enormous dog slaughter industry — “inhumane and unacceptable.”
Like the Occupy Movement and the Arab uprising, animal welfare dissidence is often initiated by young, tech-savvy people from cities such as Beijing and Shanghai who connect through China’s versions of Facebook (Kaixin), Twitter (Weibo.com) and YouTube (Youku.com).
Activists are able to mobilize thousands of volunteers from the ranks of the developing middle class — in minutes.
Photos of open-air trucks carrying as many as 500 dogs in cages piled one of top of the other have unleashed an instant groundswell of angry volunteers, activists, students and veterinarians once posted on Weibo. Some have hijacked vehicles to save the animals from slaughter …
Mona Lung, a 27-year-old activist from Taiwan, moved to China three years ago to head the Beijing chapter of ACTAsia. Everyone draws their own line about what is acceptable to them, explains Lung, who is vegan, wears canvas shoes and a cotton belt.
“You don’t have to love animals,” she implores. “You just have to respect life.”
While Lung appreciates that Chinese authorities allow ACTAsia and similar organizations to operate unhampered, she suspects the government is also protecting those who profit from the lucrative slaughter industry.
Other Asian countries have passed animal welfare laws, she says, citing the Philippines in 1998 and Taiwan in 2003. But a draft of China’s Animal Protection law, presented on Sept. 18, 2009, has not passed.
In addition to the dog and cat meat and fur industry, Lung’s ACTAsia is a watchdog for atrocities from bear farming to the country’s disturbing “crush video” phenomenon (fetish films posted online for a fee) depicting animal cruelty involving small animals and young girls.
She also monitors the widespread practice of dog culling — a shoot-first remedy in response to threats of rabies outbreaks. Instead of promoting the use of vaccines or initiating spay and neuter programs, government officials simply shoot all suspicious dogs and cats — often in large numbers.
Aware that Chinese politicians and citizens resist criticism from the West, animal welfare organizations like ACTAsia and Animals Asia recruit, train and organize Chinese activists, often at universities where young, middle-class intellectuals are more open to human rights and animal rights issues.
The animal rights movement has also secured the influential voices of Chinese celebrities, artists and academics.
• Pop star Yu Ke Wei recently used her iPhone to photograph a truck full of dogs travelling along a highway from Sichuan province to a slaughterhouse in Guangxi province. She has more than 500,000 followers on Weibo, so the reaction to her post was swift — but unsuccessful. While she got a message to police in Sichuan, the truck had already passed out of the jurisdiction. Guangxi and Guangdong provinces in the south of China are centres for dog and cat meat consumption and therefore less tolerant of interference from animal welfare activists.
• In 2010, amateur filmmaker Guo Ke created a documentary on China’s cat meat industry. The film follows the cycle from cat snatchers in Shanghai and Beijing to the restaurants of Guangzhou. The documentary, called San Hua, was produced by Ai Weiwei Workshop. Ai, an internationally renowned artist and outspoken critic of the Chinese government, helped design Beijing’s famous Bird’s Nest athletic complex.
• Academics like Professor Jinxiang Li of the department of palliative care at Sichuan University are encouraging the use of companion dogs in hospices — a stretch for a generation that had never considered that dogs could be companions.
China banned dog ownership in 1949. For the communist government pets symbolized decadence and “criminal extravagance at a time of food shortages.” It was considered bourgeois.
More than 60 years later, pet ownership is decidedly middle-class — even though in cities such as Beijing there are still restrictions on the number and size of dogs allowed in each household.
As the country grows wealthier, companion animals have become as common as BMWs, Rolex watches and Burberry trench coats. There are dog and cat shows, specialty stores and even cat and dog magazines.
Even when newly rich Chinese citizens purchase expensive Tibetan mastiffs or German shepherds for protection, they often grow attached.
Architect Mark Tong, 32, sits in a downtown park with his nine-year-old mixed-breed poodle Candy — a dog he rescued from the streets of Beijing eight years ago. “She was dirty. Someone had thrown her out. I took her to the vet and we started our life together.”
But culture and tradition run deep. Despite his devotion to Candy, he is unwilling to criticize those who eat dog and cat. “I don’t eat cat and dog. But I know a lot of people do. I don’t know if it’s wrong.”
But for those Chinese citizens who have forged emotional relationships with their pets, it is impossible for them to ignore the procession of trucks destined for country markets and food-processing plants.
Every day, retired workers, some leaning heavily on walkers, many with canes and hearing aids, gather at Beijing’s famous Beihai Park to talk, play checkers, practice tai chi and sing with friends.
Early in the morning they leave opened tins of food and bowls of water in a quiet spot for the park’s 200 feral cats …’
Read the item in full at www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1218582–animal-rights-sparks-new-cultural-war-in-china