China learns from Korean World Cup bashing
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2003:
BEIJING, CHENGDU–Closing 35 small bear bile farms and
taking 97 bears into sanctuary care since October 2000, Animals Asia
Foundation founder Jill Robinson was shocked in early December 2002
when International Fund for Animal Welfare acting China director
Zhang Li and World Society for the Protection of Animals director of
wildlife Victor Watkins insinuated to London Sunday Times Beijing
correspondent Lynne O’Donnell that her work might have provided cover
for expansion of the bear bile farming and poaching industries.
China Wildlife Conservation Association secretary Chen Run
Shen responded on December 16 after coming from Beijing to join
Sichuan counterparts at the official opening of the new AAF permanent
sanctuary for the 97 bears–plus as many as 400 more whom Robinson
has contracted to accept during the next few years.
“The number of bear farms in China is greatly reduced and the
number of bears on farms has not increased,” Chen Run Shen said.
“The CWCA confirms that the China Central Government has no intention
of commercializing the useage of bear bile on the international
market. We support the work of the AAF, and together we will
achieve our objective of terminating bear farming in China.”
The response was consistent with the tone of reports about
the need for a national humane law published in the official China
Daily since April; impending reinforcement of the weak existing
Regulation on Animal Testing, announced in November by the Beijing
Youth Daily; and state media attention given to the deployment in
Shenyang City, the reputed hub of the dog meat industry, of 10
rescue dogs trained by the AAF.
Preparing to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing,
China watched the World Cup of Soccer fiasco unfold in South Korea
during 2001-2002. Globally, more people may now know that some
South Koreans eat dogs than know who reached the finals. Meant to
exhibit South Korea as an emergent economic power, the World Cup
instead brought national embarrassment.
Chinese image-makers traditionally censor bad news. “To that
end,” wrote Elizabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times, soon after
the World Cup ended, “the Chinese Communist Party propaganda
department sent out a thick memo to editors…That Chinese sometimes
eat foreign breeds of dog was labeled off limits.”
But the surest way to prevent bad publicity is to eliminate
the cause. Thus Chinese people who care about animals, and those
who merely care about the world’s good opinion, are pursuing humane
progress with unprecedented vigor.
Cats were not mentioned in the Communist Party memo. Thus
the Yangcheng Evening News of Guangzhou probed cat-eating after an ad
for a cat meat restaurant brought a storm of angry letters from
cat-lovers. The furor spread after the paper estimated that
residents of Guangdong Province eat 10,000 cats per day, many of
them stolen pets from nearby provinces.
“Cat-lovers in Shenzhen have launched a campaign to stop the
inhumane treatment,” wrote Josephine Ma of the South China Morning
Post in early December. “Some newspapers in Guangdong printed
interviews with doctors who warned the public to stop eating cats,
as they carry the deadly feline form of mad cow disease, as well as
“If you tell me animals are starving, I can’t do anything
about it. There is no law that says we have to do anything about
it,” State Forestry Administration zoo supervisor Liu Song
complained recently to Los Angeles Times Shanghai bureau chief
Ching-Ching Ni, helping Ni to expose the neglect of animals at
several faltering local roadside zoos. Not long ago, no Chinese
official would have dared to enlist foreign media to help address a
domestic problem–but attracting foreign media to efforts to help
animals is now an evident Chinese policy objective.