Domestic Affairs

Time to end the abuse of animals

By Huang Xiangyang (
Updated: 2011-04-18 17:11
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Beijing's animal rights activists were caught in a dilemma. As they were trying to save the lives of some 500 dogs on the way to slaughter over the weekend, they helplessly found the law was not on their side.

The drama began on Saturday when a cargo truck carrying dogs was intercepted on a highway in Beijing’s suburbs by an activist, to be later joined by hundreds of his peers. They were heartbroken, stunned and infuriated by a scene that any sane person couldn’t stand to see. Hundreds of dogs were cramped into rusty and putrid iron cages, some on the verge of death, many bearing physical signs of abuse and disease such as ulcers, scars and loss of hair, wailing and groaning for food and water (see picture). The activists were determined to end their plight. They would not let the truck go. They wanted to save the fragile lives at any cost.

Time to end the abuse of animals

The dogs are scared and reluctant to get off the truck at a care center of the China Small Animal Protection Association in Beijing, April 16, 2011. [Photo/CFP]

When police showed up, the activists were told their act had violated the law because the truck driver had "all necessary quarantine and transport documents" for the journey. After a 15-hour standoff, the activist gave in - they paid 110,000 yuan ($17,000) to buy the canines in a desperate move to save them.

These dogs are lucky. But the fate of millions of other dogs, to be killed, flayed, cooked and served on dining tables in restaurants around the country deserves the same degree of attention.

Views are extensively divisive on the issue. To fight for animal rights has never been easy, especially in China, where living conditions for millions of poor people are yet to be improved and the rights of the general public to be better protected. A law on the protection of animal rights is nonexistent here, in contrast to the fact that such a law has been enforced in more than 100 countries. Animal rights activists have found themselves in an uphill battle characterized by unawareness, misunderstanding, scoffs and sometimes violence.

Excuses abound in China for continuing the practice of feeding on not only canines, but felines as well as anything "that has four legs except the table, and anything that can fly except the plane", as the saying goes. It is a country famous for its culinary culture after all, where diners know no limit to satisfy their palatable pleasure. From a moral point of view, some may argue, diners of dog are no lower than any other people who eat chicken, turkey, beef, pork, mutton or even whales.

Yes, the cultural and legal restraints are there. It is a mission impossible to end the practice of abusing and killing dogs at this stage of history in this country. That is why the bloody scenes of slaughtering the animal are staged every day in every corner of China - even after the SARS scare, which scientists have linked to the Cantonese habit of eating civet cats; even after the proved assumption that anti-social elements commonly "graduate" from violence against animals to violence against humans; even after repeated calls by activists to show some mercy to the lesser beings.

But still I think we need to do something, and a law in this regard must come out, not only for the animals, but for the sake of our country's image. Let us face up to the reality: dogs and cats are treated more often as loyal pets than part of a daily diet in most parts of the world. Despite all the culinary, cultural and legal excuses, eating them is considered offensive and disgusting in mainstream civilization on this planet, if not as evil and savage as cannibalism.

If China could come out with a law prohibiting the abuse of dogs and other small animals soon, its image will be far better spruced than any self-promotion ad displayed in New York's Times Square.