Helping from beyond the Great Wall challenges “foreign devils”

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:

HONG KONG, WASHINGTON D.C.–Animal advocates outside China
erupted as vehemently as Chinese counterparts to word of the summer
2006 dog purges, but had difficulty finding effective ways to
Because the Beijing government allowed discussion of the dog
purges to hit the Internet, western as well as Chinese domestic
reaction was markedly more intense than as recently as 2003, when
far more dogs were killed, to a fraction of the 2006 global notice.
“The killings have extra resonance in China’s Year of the
Dog,” the Financial Times editorialized. “The reaction has
highlighted changing attitudes since the animal last appeared in the
zodiacal cycle. In 1994, dog-beating squads were common even in big
cities and the People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist

party, was demanding an end to the newly popular but ‘uncivilized
and unhealthy’ practice of keeping dogs as pets.
“Beaters in Yunnan province alone killed 10 million dogs in
the three years to 1991, state media reported then, with no hint of
protest. China’s urban middle classes have since become hugely
enthusiastic pet owners, and are increasingly open to ideas of
animal rights and restrained government.”
Leaders of both Chinese and western-led animal charities
working within China recognized that the Chinese state media may have
been allowed to amplify the unprecedented internal protest against
the dog purges as part of the central government effort to build
public opinion in favor of the introduction of a promised national
humane law. Beijing officials have hinted that the long-rumored and
anticipated legislation will be in place before the 2008 Olympics.
“Local groups are working individually, and together through
the China Companion Animal Protection Network,” e-mailed ACTAsia
representative Pei-Feng Su to activist online bulletin boards,
trying to coordinate non-Chinese activists’ activity with the
domestic response.
“The local groups recognise that they should use this
incident as an example to urge the government to have a humane policy
and methods for rabies elimination and dog control,” Pei-Feng Su
continued. “They are currently preparing a document for the
government on this issue.
“A peaceful anti-culling event will be held to condemn the
mass culling, initiated by 28 local animal groups. The local groups
have said that international support is urgently needed for local
activities. However, instead of directly contacting the Chinese
authorities,” Pei-Feng Su suggested, “it would be very helpful if
organisations could provide the local groups with statements which
would help them in their discussions with the authorities, and
prevent any suggestion that the groups are trying to undermine the
Chinese government.”
Pei-Feng Su offered guidelines for letter-writing, c/o
Said Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson, “We have
requested urgent meetings with the central government in Beijing,
where we hope to bring together key Chinese animal welfare advocates
to discuss what is needed to address rabies and stray dog control
throughout China.”
IFAW China representative Grace Gabriel e-mailed to members
that, “On August 1, in a telephone conversation with the Chuxiong
Prefecture government office, IFAW was told that the dog killing in
Muding County has been stopped. If that is true, we urge the local
government to issue an official public statement to that effect. A
public statement would be a warning to other municipalities that
inhumane killing of dogs is ineffective against rabies and is not
acceptable in any society worldwide.”
Unsatisfied by diplomatic letters and calls for statements,
some non-Chinese animal advocates flamed government offices and news
Shanghai Daily columnist Wang Yong, after denouncing the dog
purges, made creative use of offensive e-mails from abroad to decry
the alleged hypocricy of the flamers by describing western-style
factory farming of poultry. Wang Yong may have encouraged readers to
wonder how chickens are raised in China, and to read Animal
Factories by Peter Singer and Jim Mason, cited as sources and
available in a Chinese edition.

Boycott threat

PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk appealed for a general boycott of
China, mentioning also Chinese live market cruelty, live feeding of
large carnivores at some Chinese wildlife parks, bear bile farming,
that “China supplies more than half the monkeys imported to the U.S.
for experiments, and that number has increased sevenfold in the last
10 years,” and that “With the world’s largest population of sheep,
lambs, goats, and kids, China is the world’s most prolific
exporter of the hides of these animals as well as those of cows. In
2004, Chinese leather constituted more than one-third of all
exported leather in the world,” consistent with China leading the
world–by far–in animal slaughter.
PETA did not mention that the public health and wildlife
management branches of the Beijing government have tried in recent
years to more stringently regulate live markets, live feeding at
wildlife parks, and bear bile farming, albeit against some
resistance from other levels of government.
“Foreigners, no matter how angry about the dog massacres,
should understand that there are many Chinese people who care for
animals and also protest against the dog killing,” Animal Rescue
Beijing spokesperson Irene Zhang told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“I agree that use of boycott threats does not work,” said
University of Houston political scientist Peter Li. Li emigrated to
the U.S. from Jianxi, China, in 1994, bringing his pet cats, and
has returned to China several times to direct landmark surveys about
public attitudes toward animal welfare.
“The Chinese Communist officials have less incentive to
respond positively if the international community or members of it
use threats of boycott to facilitate change,” Li continued. “Like
North Korea, the Chinese government has never bowed to outside
threats. But, it does selectively respond to friendly suggestions
and pressures without making threats.”

Solutions offered

That was the approach taken by Blue Cross of India chief
executive Chinny Krishna, who wrote to Chinese officials urging the
introduction of programs parallel to the Animal Birth Control
programs that the Blue Cross of India initiated in Chennai in 1964.
The ABC approach became Indian national policy in December 1997.
“If the purpose of killing dogs in Chennai was to control the
street dog population and the incidence of rabies, the killing
failed,” Krishna said. “Each year, since 1860, the city killed
more animals, yet the number of dogs and incidence of rabies kept
going up. Dog killing was ended in 1996, at which time as many as
135 dogs were most cruelly electrocuted each day in Chennai. After
the killing stopped completely, the number of rabies cases came down
from 120 in 1996 to five in each of the last two years.”
Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle offered
China $100,000 “to assist the Chinese government in developing a
humane animal control and rabies prevention program for the country.”
The offer was delivered along with baskets of letters during
an HSUS-led demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Washington
D.C. “We are prepared to send a delegation of veterinarians to China
if they take us up on the offer,” Pacelle told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
How far and how fast Beijing will move, and how much use
China might make of outside help in addressing animal issues, is
still quite unclear.
“The central authorities in Beijing are the last group of the
Chinese leaders who refuse to pose in pictures with their pets,”
pointed out Peter Li. “The ideological indoctrination they received
in Mao Tsetung’s time was biased against live pets. Chinese leaders
posing with their pets would be an earthshaking signal.”
“Our work and research shows a definite upswing in positive
attitudes towards companion animals in China,” said Jill Robinson.
“Although we are still a long way away from a countrywide declaration
that dogs and cats are our friends, not food or fur, I feel a
boycott could potentially set things back. It’s worth remembering
that when similar boycotts were called during South Korea’s bid for
the Olympic Games in the late 1980s, student groups across the
country were outraged and even called upon their peers to kill and
eat more dogs and cats as a protest against Western imperialism.
Historically, the Chinese government has fiercely resisted outside
threats,” Robinson said, echoing Li, “and is generally more
amenable to positive initiatives addressing the problems at hand.
“Working together with local groups, academics and officials
just now is imperative,” Robinson emphasized. “Gather-ing and
translating information from international experts on responsible
rabies reduction programs which have been effective in other
countries, together with enhancing and promoting the proven benefits

of sharing our lives with companion animals, such as our Dr. Dog
animal therapy program, now running successfully in China, will be
better accepted and more beneficial than a boycott.”

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