From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2000:

I read with a mix of hope and intense disgust the January/February 2000 ANIMAL PEOPLE feature about overseas animal shelters trying to avoid repeating U.S. and European mistakes.

Especially interesting to me were the remarks of Wu Hung, founder of the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan. Until recently Wu Hung chaired the Life Conservationist Association of Taiwan, a group which in name was active, but by way of activity did little more than publish pamphlets. I have talked with Wu Hung on occasion during my six years in Taiwan, and your article brought home to me the true evil that many of the large, rich organizations of conventional outlook are wreaking on animal rescue overseas.

Six years ago Wu Hung and the Life Conservationists believed in the Buddhist value of not harming creatures. They changed after groups including the Humane Society of the U.S./Humane Society International, PETA, and World Society for the Protection of Animals (most notably Joy Leney) brought in the death drones––legions of media-savvy veterinarians and vet techs to teach shelter operators not how to promote spay/neuter, rehome animals, and do adoptions, but rather, how to kill “humanely,” in volume, with a drug not available in Taiwan, and most destructively, taught the shelter operators how to mentally erase the faces of the animals dying in order to do the job without getting a guilty conscience.

They succeeded, from my perspective, in brainwashing Wu Hung, the Life Conservationists, and much of the rest of Taiwan. Soon after HSUS/HSI, PETA, and WSPA came, parading the needle as the final solution to the Taiwanese stray dog problem, the public began objecting to the presence of dogs on the streets-––rarely done before, and never collectively. At opportune moments “rabies” was muttered from the right mouths, and panic broke out.

Taiwan had horrible pounds, and still does, but formerly tolerated well-behaved street dogs, many of whom were treated as public pets.

Mass round-ups and killing followed the rabies panic, and the dogs died in a way that could only make the groups touting humane killing proud to be needle-wielders. Sure, they taught the Taiwan how to kill right. But they were not around to make sure it continued. As of my last visit, two months ago, the pound in Taipei was killing dogs with gas, then incinerating the carcasses. Since the gassing often merely rendered the dogs unconscious, many were burned alive––the same problem which in January roused worldwide shock and horror when documented on video in Catalan province, Spain, by the Barcelona-based Associacio de Defensa Del Animales.

The Taipei pound is perhaps the most widely scrutinized of all the pounds in Taiwan. We can only imagine the methods in use at other pounds.

The gas chamber, and any other means of euthanasia aside from the lethal injection, are used in direct violation of the Animal Protection Law passed by Taiwan nearly two years ago––which Wu Hung and the Life Conservationists declared a wonderful victory for Taiwanese dogs. The passage of that now ignored piece of legislation effectively ended the international groups’ interest in Taiwan.

About a year ago, Wu Hung was ousted from the Life Conservationists, and took most of his former staff with him to a new organization, which as yet has little influence. It is not expected to enter the stray dog debate within the foreseeable future. Wu Hung, himself a Buddhist monk, now says that he cannot see Taiwan avoiding killing the dogs for at least another 20 to 30 years––which shows how severely a few misguided organizations dabbling in international outreach can erode a life ethic rooted in centuries of religous belief, available to the humane community to draw upon in establishing animal care and control institutions that value dogs’ lives and work to prevent suffering.

In some cases, for instance if rabies should become a real threat in Taiwan, which has rarely had any, some killing may be necessary. But advocating mass killing as a routine procedure, as HSUS/HSI, PETA, WSPA, and some other international groups advocate, makes them responsible not only for the deaths of animals who could otherwise be saved, but responsible for destroying the cultural foundations which could be used to build a much kinder society.

I lay my hopes for the future of the world’s stray animals to people like Kenya SPCA director Jean Gilchrist, who somehow have managed to survive the big-group brainwashing about “humane euthanasia” and make progress in an altogether different direction. There may be hopes for stray dogs abroad yet-––because the media will still listen to whoever is doing the talking.

The important thing for those of us in these situations to remember is to keep talking, unless we want to be wielding the needle for the rest of our careers. We must not let the world confuse killing with animal rescue.

—Mina Sharpe

Taipei Abandoned Animal Rescue Fndtn.

c/o 800 Chung Shan N. Rd., Sec. 6

Shihlin, Taipei, Taiwan 111

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