Whilst some countries in Asia such as Hong Kong, the Philippines and Taiwan have banned the practice of dog eating, evidence shows that in China, the biggest dog eating country in the world, it continues to thrive.
It is estimated that up to 10 million dogs are slaughtered every year in China, many deliberately slowly and cruelly in the belief that "torture equals taste", whilst all suffer the stress and pain of being farmed in concentrated numbers before being killed in a variety of ways which rarely ensures a quick and humane death.
Animals Asia field investigators have witnessed trucks loaded with anything up to 2,000 dogs per truck arriving at the wholesale Hua Nam Wild Animal Market in Guangzhou. These poor animals have spent 3 days and 3 nights, squashed together in tiny cages, unable to move, without food, water or shelter. The dogs are then brutally lifted by the neck and hurled into a pen by a man wielding a metal tongs. Here they fight through fear, hunger and desperation to survive whilst awaiting a horrendously slow death in order to provide meat for restaurants in Guangzhou.
Diseases such as parvo virus, canine distemper and leptospirosis are rife and spread like wildfire in dogs whose immune systems are already low due to depression and starvation. We often witness a large number of dead and diseased dogs and cats which have been pulled out of the cages and slung by the side.
The dog meat trade is becoming increasingly industrialized and is even promoted by the government in some provinces. Huge dog farms have been developed and the importation of giant gentle breeds, like the St. Bernard, which is cross bred with the local Chinese mongrel to produce a fast growing, docile “meat dog” that can be slaughtered at 4 months. Livestock sections of large bookshops stock books and VCDs on dog farming which promote horrific slaughter methods, in the misguided belief that the more the dog suffers the better the meat will taste. Consequently, vacuum packed and canned dog meat are becoming increasingly available in some supermarkets.
Investigations also reveal that the fur from slaughtered dogs is now entering local and international markets and being used as "trim" for fashion items, or for trinkets such as keyrings and hair accessories.
Animals Asia has examined arguments ranging from those referring to culture, to those which state that, as long as the animal does not suffer, then eating dog meat is no different to eating the meat of other domestically raised animals such as pork, chicken and beef. However, we believe that to advocate humane slaughter for dogs would legitimize the practice and undermine the tireless and effective work of those Asian countries that have recently outlawed the practice. Time and time again, dogs across the world have proved their unique qualities and how valuable they can be in partnership with people. We believe that they should not be part of the food chain.
The scale of the cruelty is immense, but our recent survey on China’s largest internet portal - Sina.com - had over 5,000 responses and showed that many Chinese people are passionately against the idea of eating our “best friends”.
Education is the key to ending their misery and Animals Asia needs your help as we tackle the problem with positive programmes like Doctor Dog and brand new initiatives like the China distribution of 88,000 VCDs of our innovative inhouse film "Dr. Eddie: Friend or Food?" - inspiring and compelling a reconsideration of attitudes at a grass roots level.
Historically the practice of cat eating in China has been largely confined to Guangdong Province where cat meat is part of a famous traditional dish: "Tiger (cat), Phoenix (chicken), Dragon (snake)". Though it is hard to know exact figures, some estimates put the number of cats consumed per year in China at 4 million.
On field trips and investigations into the cat meat trade in Guangdong, our field officers witness literally hundreds of cages filled with sick and dying cats. Lifted by metal tongs around their necks, the cats are wrenched from their overcrowded cages and brutally slaughtered. It is common for restaurants in the province to have cages of live cats at the entrance, waiting to be chosen by the diner.
Whilst we recognise that cats do not fulfill as many varied roles as dogs are able to, they are undoubtedly valuable companion animals bringing much benefit, health and happiness to their owners. Cats, like dogs, cannot be raised and slaughtered humanely and they have earned a place by our sides, and in our laps!
Amidst all this bad news for dogs and cats, there is hope. Pet ownership is exploding in China, and research shows that pet owners disagree with dog and cat eating.
The demographics in China are changing rapidly. Traditionally, entire families would live together under one roof, but today the trend is for young Chinese to move out and set up their own homes, thus leaving the older generation to live alone. Many are buying pets for company. The advent of the one child family planning policy on the mainland has resulted in lots of lonely children and increasingly pet dogs are brought into the family for company.
Under communism, dog ownership was forbidden in urban areas since it was feared as a public health hazard and seen as a sign of a bourgeois, capitalist indulgence. Additionally, because of the lack of civic education concerning responsible pet ownership, rabies is (and continues to be) a big problem. In 2004 over 2,000 people died from rabies, a huge number which serves to make people afraid of dogs.
The license to keep a pet dog in the city was, until very recently, extortionate - around US$2,800 per year – to discourage people from keeping dogs. Today, the fee has been reduced, but is still extremely costly. Initial registration costs as much as US$1,235 a year in Guangzhou, for example. In Beijing, however, the fee has recently been cut from US$660 for initial registration to US$110, and the subsequent yearly fee is approximately US$60. But even the lower fee in Beijing is quite a lot of money when you consider that the average worker’s salary in China is just US$950 per year.
Despite the obstacles, pet ownership is continuing to grow rapidly. Estimates are that there are now over half a million registered dogs in Beijing, with many millions unregistered. Owning a dog has become a status symbol and it seems that in the long-term, the pet industry may be much more profitable than the meat dog industry. Wealthy young mainlanders lavish money on their pets, and pet shops and grooming salons are popping up all over the big cities. The situation for dogs in the countryside has, unfortunately, remained largely unchanged. Traditionally, there has been a very practical approach taken towards dogs, i.e. they guard your house and then they are eaten. However, the fact is that opinions for the whole country are made in the key cities, there is hope for the future.
With attitudes towards dogs in transition (“pampered pet”, “meat dog”, "pet dog", “street dog”, “rabied dog”), we believe that we have a window of opportunity to raise the profile of dogs and cats, showcasing them as our friends and helpers, in need of our love, respect and protection. Thus we are expanding our Dr. Dog programme, together with distributing our "Dr. Eddie: Friend or Food?" inspirational and educational film, which compels people to reconsider their attitude to dog and cat eating.
We are also aware that the new pet owner often has little information as to how to care for their pet. For this reason, we have created our own Animals Asia pet care leaflet that is being included in the "Dr. Eddie: Friend or Food?" Film Pack that is currently being distributed by the thousand, free of charge, across China.
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