Pets are still stolen and killed for their meat.
Now the dogs Zhai and Muppet live in a rescue center in Chengdu, Sichuan province. These incredibly sociable and affectionate dogs have thankfully forgotten that they were both once condemned to be eaten at the dinner table in China.
Dog Zhai was found trembling in a cage in a market in southern China as he and other dogs around him waited for their turn to be slaughtered. Dog meat is sold in markets, restaurants and stalls. The Muppet dog was rescued from a truck carrying more than 900 dogs from the north to the south of the country, a brave rescuer managed to grab him from there and take him to Chengdu. Some dogs have been seized when the driver was unable to provide the required licenses to the police, which is now commonplace in China, with activists increasingly calling the authorities, alerting the media and providing legal assistance to the dogs.
These dogs are lucky. Many dogs fall victim to an evil fate every year – they are stunned with clubs on the head, their throats are cut, or they are immersed still alive in boiling water to separate their fur. The trade has become mired in illegality, and research over the past two years has shown that many of the animals used in the trade are, in fact, stolen animals.
Activists are placing ads on subways, high-rise buildings and at bus stops across the country, warning the public that the dogs and cats whose meat they may be tempted to eat were family pets or sick animals picked up from the street.
Fortunately, the situation is gradually changing, and the cooperation of activists with the authorities is an important tool in changing existing practices and curbing shameful traditions. Relevant government departments should play an important role in dealing with China’s dog situation: they are responsible for domestic and stray dog policy and rabies prevention measures.
For the past five years, Animals of Asia activists have held annual symposiums to help local governments develop humane standards. On a more practical level, activists encourage people to share their experiences of successfully running animal shelters.
Some may ask if activists have a right to object to the consumption of dogs and cats when there is so much cruelty going on in the West. The position of activists is this: they believe that dogs and cats deserve to be treated well, not because they are pets, but rather because they are friends and helpers of humanity.
Their articles are replete with evidence of how, for example, cat therapy helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, strengthen the immune system. They point out that many of the pet owners are much healthier than those who do not want to share shelter with animals.
If dogs and cats can improve our emotional and physical health, then naturally we should pay attention to the sensitivity and intelligence of farm animals. In short, pets can be a springboard to let the masses know how shameful we feel about “food” animals.
That is why it is so important to continue implementing animal welfare programs in China. Irene Feng, director of the cat and dog shelter, says: “What I love most about my job is that I’m doing something meaningful for animals, helping keep cats and dogs safe from cruelty. Of course, I know I can’t help them all, but the more our team works on this issue, the more animals will benefit. I have received so much warmth from my own dog and I am proud of what our team has accomplished in China over the past 10 years.”