Will China move against cruelty?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1999:
SHANGHAI––Xu Weixing, 42,
was not supposed to have been among the animals
fed alive to the three Siberian tigers who
fatally mauled him on November 17 at the
Shanghai Safari Park––but he was, by accident.
Driving one of a convoy of 13 busloads
of high school students on a field trip, Xu was
fatally mauled when either his own bus broke
down, or he tried to tow another bus to safety.
Accounts from the Shanghai News,
Xinmin Evening News, and China bureaus of
Associated Press and the London Daily
Telegraph differed greatly in detail, but agreed
that the tigers did not finish Xu; he died from
blood loss more than an hour later.
“Before the attack,” David Rennie of
the Daily Telegraph wrote from Beijing, “the
park had already stopped the much criticized
practice of letting visitors feed live chickens
and sheep to the tigers, officials said.”
Any trio of hungry tigers might kill
anyone, anywhere––but tigers who approach a
line of buses and ignore hundreds of screaming
teenagers as they stalk and pounce would seem
to be used to getting their meals near visitors,
and tigers who kill inefficiently tend to be those
who have had only easy prey.
Reportedly exhibiting 10,000 animals
of about 200 species, the Shanghai Wildlife
Safari is among the biggest such facilities in
China, attracting about a million visitors per
year since it opened in 1996.
Under the arcane Chinese system of
classification, it is technically not a zoo but
rather a “wildlife park and breeding center,”
regulated by the State Forestry Administration.
Zoos fall under a different bureaucracy.
Dozens of other wildlife viewing
venues falling under various classifications but
mostly equivalent only to U.S. roadside zoos
have sprung up in China during the past
decade. The founders are sometimes local governments
but more often are private entrepreneurs,
exploiting rising incomes, hunger for
entertainment, and interest in animals.
Supplying the Chinese exhibiton
boom created an opening for exotic animal traffickers––including
Richard Ghiazza, 46, of
African Game Services, located near Pretoria,
South Africa. Ghiazza on October 5 flew 218
animals to the Xiangjiang Safari Park in
Guangzou, China, among them 18 giraffes,
10 endangered wild dogs, six spotted-neck
otters, two clawless otters, a pair of two-yearold
rhinos, and various impalas, blesboks,
springboks, kudus, and wildebeests. The
menagerie filled two chartered Boeing 727s.
Ghiazza is best known for his purchase
and alleged abuse of 30 baby elephants
who were captured in the Tuli district of
Botswana during July 1998. Global outrage
erupted first over the separation of the elephants
from their mothers, and then over
alleged rough treatment of the elephants by
trainers hired from Indonesia. Cruelty charges
were filed by the South African National SPCA
against Ghiazza and four of his staff, but were
dismissed on October 26, 1999, on a technicality
involving the service of warrants.
The NSPCA pledged to recharge
Ghiazza et al. But as Fiona Macleod of the
Johannesburg Mail & Guardian revealed on
October 8, Ghiazza seems to have evaded jus-
tice before. Emigrating to South Africa in
1990, he declared that he was born in Aqui
Terme, northern Italy, and had no criminal
convictions. Police sources in Italy told
Macleod that, “a Ghiazza, first name Ricardo,
born 9/5/53 in Alesandria, has been wanted in
Italy since 1992, having to serve six months
imprisonment for drug violations.”
The main result of all the exposure
seemed to be that none of the Tuli elephants
went to China––at least not yet. Instead,
according to the South Africa-based Wildlife
Action Group, nine went to the Marakele
Game Reserve; nine went to the Sandhurt
Safaris hunting lodge in North West Province,
South Africa; seven are held in reportedly dismal
conditions at the Dresden Zoo, in former
East Germany; and five have been sold to one
Craig Saunders, a reported Ghiazza associate.
Live feeding of carnivores is a notorious
commonality of Chinese zoos and the
Italian drug trade. But the Sicilian mafia dons
who were accused almost a decade ago of tossing
a trussed-up informer into a pen of starving
pigs reputedly only did it once. Many Chinese
wildlife parks feed live animals to carnivores
––and often encourage animals to fight––as a
routine activity. Some allow visitors to buy
live animals and do the feeding themselves.
In addition to the Shanghai Safari
Park, major zoos accused of live feeding during
the past five years include Southwest Sun
& Moon City in Chengdu, the Beijing
Badaling Wild Animal World, the Shenzhen
Safari Park in Shenzhen, and the Xiongshen
Bear and Tiger Entertainment city in Guilin.
Exposes have been published by the
International Fund for Animal Welfare, the
Animals Asia Foundation, Hong Kong physician
John Wedderburn, Frank Langfitt of the
Baltimore Sun foreign staff, ANIMAL PEOPLE,
the Animal Protection Institute, and the
Fondacion Brigitte Bardot.
“In June of this year,” Grace Gabriel
of IFAW and Jill Robinson of AAF wrote in a
November 15 press release, “China’s State
Forestry Administration drafted a new
Regulation for Nationwide Wildlife Parks.
Chapter 10, under Wildlife Park Management
Policy, includes a clause clearly stating that,
‘cruelty to and slaughter at will of wild animals
is prohibited.’ In addition, it stated that,
‘The sale of wild animals and their products
within the premises of wildlife parks is forbidden,’
and that ‘It is also forbidden to engage
in commercial activities using sick and dead
wild animals or their products.’”
In August 1999, Chinese president
Jiang Zemin pledged to Brigitte Bardot that
live feeding of domestic animals to wildlife
would also be stopped. On November 15,
Gabriel and Robinson said, “Mr. Zhang
Jianlong, director of the Department of Wild
Fauna and Flora Conservation in the State
Forestry Administration, advised that all live
feeding has been stopped. The Chinese government
is now drafting further relevant regulations
to avoid such incidents from ever
However, Langfitt on November 27
revealed that the draft regulations pertain only
to “large mammals such as live cows, pigs,
and sheep.” Live feeding of poultry to carnivores
Questioned by ANIMAL PEOPLE,
Gabriel then acknowledged that the draft regulations
may also apply to only the Xiongshen
Bear and Tiger Entertainment City in Guilin––
just one of the more notorious of many facilities
at which live feeding has become routine.
Visitors are told the live feedings are meant to
prepare the animals for an eventual return to
wild habitat, but no such reintroductions are
planned by the Chinese government, and the
promotional aspect makes plain that this is
merely a pretext for a geek show.
Live feeding has never been popular
among U.S. zoo-goers, nor approved by the
American Zoo Association, but has surfaced:
as recently as 1996 the Steel City Petting Zoo
in Cottondale, Florida, was closed by the
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service because owner Romulus Scalf allegedly
did live feedings as a gate attraction.
Opined Langfitt in an August 12,
1999 syndicated feature, “It is one of the paradoxes
surrounding China’s emerging market
economy that the same rising incomes which
have driven the creation of freak-show animal
parks have also encouraged a new class of
urban pet owner who would rather dote on
Fido than eat him.”
Langfitt went on to describe the
common Chinese police practice of noosing
dogs and then beating them to death, if they
are found running at large or if the owner lacks
a license. Afterward the dogs’ remains reputedly
may be requisitioned and eaten.
Although the late dictator Mao Tse
Tung denounced dogs for allegedly taking
food from humans, fear of rabies has always
been the major pretext for dog-killing. Rabies
outbreaks continue to kill as many as 20,000 to
40,000 Chinese per year. Anti-rabies vaccines
are still scarce and costly in China, mostly due
to lack of refrigeration, which is necessary to
keep the vaccines from deteriorating. Eating
dog meat, however, is widely but erroneously
believed to confer similar protection.
Dogs are accordingly eaten, mostly
by ethnic Han Chinese, throughout Southeast
Asia. The capturing and killing methods,
originally just cheap animal control, have
evolved into basics of a cuisine thriving among
older men––especially in Korea––who are less
afraid of rabies these days than hopeful that
dog adrenalin might boost their virility.
Korean opposition legislator Kim
Hong Shin helped revive global attention to
dog-eating in early 1999 by introducing a bill
to add dogs to the official roster of edible livestock.
The Korean Animal Protection Society
founder Sunnan Kum and supporters responded
on November 18 by presenting to the
Korean National Assembly in Seoul the signatures
of 40,000 Koreans on a petition endorsing
a draft bill to strengthen the present unenforced
prohibition on dog slaughter for meat.
International Aid for Korean
Animals, led by Sunnan Kum’s sister Kyenan,
meanwhile rallied support for a boycott of
Korea during the 2002 World Cup of Soccer,
unless dog-eating is banned.
World Cup Organizing Committee
general secretary Chang Sin Choi served
notice with an August 26 letter to K o r e a n
Daily Sports that he intends to defend dog-eating
as a cultural tradition. He urged readers to
lecture French animal rights crusader and dogmeat-eating
opponent Brigitte Bardot––a longtime
vegetarian––about cruel French culinary
traditions. Soon whole schoolrooms wrote to
Bardot to do so.
Other Korean sports officials waved
the red cloth of defiance by promoting a series
of 11 Spanish-style bullfights at the Seoul
Land theme Park in Kwachon, also over strenuous
opposition from KAPS and IAKA.
Summer fare in Korea, dog meat is
a winter dish in northeastern Thailand.
“The thought of eating dog horrifies
most Thais,” South China Morning Post
Bangkok correspondent James East explained
on November 16: most are Buddhist vegetarians.
But ethnic Han Chinese refugees from
Vietnam brought dog-eating with them when
they resettled around Ban Tha Rae, Sakon
Nakhon province, after the Vietnam War.
During the three-month Buddhist Lent they
refrain from dog-killing, according to East––
but the end of Lent, he wrote, “is the beginning
of the canine killing season. Dog-catchers
tour northern cities and go as far south as
Bangkok to scour the streets for strays.”
“Taiwanese and Chinese tourists also
demand dog,” said East. The Saner Cafe in
the Muang district of Nakhon Phanom reportedly
kills 14 dogs a day, mostly for tourist
“Health officials and the provincial
administration want me to close down because
they say the cafe damanges the province’s reputation,”
owner Saner Kamkornruecha admitted
to the Asia News Network in October.
The dog byproduct industry is apparently
also growing. The Thai SPCA confirmed
in August 1999 that Thai dog meat
butchers––like counterparts in China and the
Philippines––are exporting pelts.
“The villagers claim eating dog meat
is a ritual, but it is just an excuse to kill about
500 dogs a week for their skins,” Thai SPCA
general manager Roger Lohanan told Supoj
Wancharoen of the Bangkok Post. Dog fur is
used to trim garments abroad; dog leather is
used in Chinese-made golf gloves, said East.
Thai authorities are hoping that
humanely reducing the numbers of street dogs
can knock the profit out of dog slaughter,
which thrives largely because those who sell
the meat and pelts do not have the expense of
raising the dogs. About 550,000 dogs roam
Bangkok, for instance, free for the taking––
450,000 owned, 100,000 unowned.
Bangkok governor Bhichat Rattakul
on October 30 expanded an ongoing free and
low-cost dog neutering program, along with
low-cost microchipping of owned dogs; and
announced that animal control officers would
neuter, vaccinate, microchip, and give strays
away free to people who pledge to take care of
them and keep them home. The first 150 dogs
offered were placed within 48 hours.
Neither live feeding at zoos nor dogeating
are unique to China and the ethnic Han
Chinese culture. Live feeding was also standard
at the Colisseum menagerie in imperial
Rome, where humans were often on the menu,
and at the Tower of London menagerie from
the 13th century until it was closed in 1831 at
the dawn of the modern humane movement.
Dogs are eaten in many other
nations, albeit without the preliminary torture
practiced in Korea. For example, Marlene
Davis, of Victoria, British Columbia, recently
described dog-eating in Guanajuato,
Mexico, while raising funds for Mexican neutering
and vaccination work. Nigerian
Vegetarian Education Network representative
Robert Maduka meanwhile sent A N I M A L
P E O P L E clips about dog-eating in Akwa
Ibom, Nigeria. Ironically, while Koreans
associate dog-eating with enhanced masculinity,
Nigerian consumers are apparently mostly
women who believe eating dog meat will give
them bigger breasts.
Abolishing cruelty in Asia, and elsewhere,
may be achieved to some extent by
political pressure. Progress can be secured,
however, only by overcoming ignorance and
insensitivity. Langfitt described a recent
encouraging moment: as a man boxed a bear
at the Shenzhen Safari Park, eight-year-old
Yang Tongyuan argued that the bear should
not be hit. The present may belong to the
boxer and those who cheered him––but Yang
Tongyuan represents the hoped-for future.
Recent prosecutions in Singapore
and Hong Kong show that officials of Han
Chinese ethnicity may find cruelty as appalling
as anyone else, once sensitized to it.
Responding to charges brought by
the Singapore SPCA, a Singapore district
court on November 17 sentenced two illegal
immigrants to six weeks in jail apiece for burying
eight puppies alive. They got another
month and four cane strokes each for entering
Singapore illegally. Until recently, that would
have been considered the greater offense.
In Hong Kong, Eastern Court magistrate
Andrew Chan Hing-wai on October 26
seized all surviving animals except a box of
crickets and a dog from two pet shops owned
by Liu Yuk-hing, 30; convicted her of three
counts of neglect, two counts of keeping animals
in unlicensed premises, and four counts
of assault for allegedly resisting arrest; lectured
Liu on her failure to prevent animal suffering;
fined Liu $18,500; and suspended a
two-month jail sentence while placing Liu on a
year of probation.
Liu may have gotten off easy compared
to future offenders. On October 4,
Hong Kong Agriculture and Fisheries
Department assistant director Liu Kwai-Kin
told Antoine So of the South China Morning
Post that his office hopes to increase the maximum
penalty for cruelty from the present
$5,000 or six months in jail per count, to a
possible maximum of $100,000, to better
respond to cases of mass abuse and neglect.
The humane community feared that
the 1997 end of British rule and takeover by
China would weaken humane enforcement.
However, six cruelty cases prosecuted in 1997
brought total fines of $4,000; seven cases
prosecuted in 1998 brought fines totaling
$14,000, and the four cases prosecuted in
1999 brought fines totaling $20,800.