No big Olympic wins for animals –but some quiet gains
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2008:
BEIJING–Political stress over Tibet and controversies
arising from the aftermath of the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake
appear to have deferred expectations that China would introduce a
national humane law as a goodwill gesture just ahead of the 2008
Olympic Games in Beijing.
The anticipated introduction, all but promised by state
media for several years, did not happen. Instead, as the 2008
Olympics approached, speculation about the possible content of a
national humane law and reportage about controversial animal issues
nearly vanished from state media–except for warnings that Beijing
restaurants should not serve dog meat during August and September,
while visitors filled the city to attend the Olympics and the
Paralympics for handicapped athletes, to be held afterward.
But the Beijing Pet Dog Management Office. a branch of the
police department, in mid-July summoned Animal Rescue Beijing
founder Wu Tianyu and China Small Animal Protection Association
founder Lu Di “to discuss the situation of pet dog control in
Beijing,” Animal Rescue Beijing volunteer Irene Zhang told ANIMAL
Joining the delegation, Zhang described a positive
atmosphere and outcome. “The police promised that if there are any
complaints about a dog,” Zhang e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “they
would not take the dog away, but would pursuade the pet owner to
take care of the dog according to the law, such as keeping a big dog
out of the downtown, or registering a small dog. If elderly people
have a big dog as a companion, they will not take any action.
“Animal Rescue Beijing asked the police to propose to the
government to strictly control professional dog breeders,” Zhang
continued, “with no new registration of dog breeders and no
cross-breeding permitted; to close the local roadside dog meat
markets in Liyuan Tongzhou, Gaoliying Shunyi, Daxing and Changping,
to maintain food safety and prevent rabies; to control roaming pet
dogs in the suburban and countryside areas; to ban private dog
breeding with a heavy fine; and to punish the dog owner instead of
the dog if there are any complaints against a pet dog.
“The police agreed with our opinion,” Zhang wrote, “and
said that they would work with other government agencies to take
The Beijing Catering Trade Associ-ation distributed the
initial “strong advisory” to restaurants against serving dog meat,
reported Xinhua News Agency editor Bi Mingxin.
Beijing Tourism Bureau vice director Xiong Yumei several days
later issued recommendations to restaurant staff about how to firmly
but politely dissuade thrill-seeking foreign visitors who might ask
for dog meat.
The Beijing Food Safety Adminis-tration followed up by
formally prohibiting 112 officially designated Olympic restaurants
from selling dog meat during the Olympics.
“Non-designated restaurants, especially those serving
Korean, Yunnan, and Guizhou cuisine, have also been encouraged not
to serve dog meat,” reported China Daily staff writer Wang
Zhuoqiong. “All meat transported into Beijing during the Olympics
will be checked to prevent violations, the notice said.” The dog
meat ban was presented “as a mark of respect for foreigners and
people from ethnic groups,” Wang Zhuoqiong continued.
Beijing restauranteurs questioned by various reporters mostly
said they had never served dog meat in the first place. Dogs are
often eaten in parts of southern and coastal China, but barely 100
of the more than 14,000 restaurants in Beijing have been found to
serve dog meat in more than 15 years of surveys.
Western reporting teams sent to the Olympics typically
consisted of one or two sportswriters plus a “lifestyles” reporter,
much to the annoyance of reporters from other beats who had hoped to
get the coveted assignment.
“Let’s be honest. We came to China for the food, in all its
bizarre, exotic glory.” wrote Garry Linnell of the Victoria
(Australia) Herald Sun. “Scorpion kebab? Roast dog leg? Deep fried
worm? Welcome to Guolizhuang, a Beijing restaurant specialising in
animal penises and testicles.” Linnell’s reportage, and similar
from others who tended to visit the same places, played into
expectations whetted by warnings from western animal advocacy groups.
Humane Society of the U.S. policy director Teresa Telecky,
for example, cautioned Olympic visitors that “Although it is legal
to sell ivory in China, it is illegal to bring ivory back to the
U.S. Don’t buy items made of or trimmed in fur or leather. Wild
animals as well as dogs and cats are killed for their fur in China.
The methods of killing them include skinning them alive.” Telecky
mentioned seeing “cat trinkets covered in real cat fur” in China,
which have appeared in U.S. stores as well, imported from China and
several other parts of the world.
“Don’t order shark fin soup,” Telecky continued. “Sharks
are in decline worldwide, largely because of the demand for their
fins. Shark fins are cut off and the sharks are thrown overboard to
die. Be mindful of what else you eat. Massive numbers of snakes,
turtles and small mammals are captured in other Asian countries [and
in the U.S., in the case of turtles] and transported alive under
cruel conditions to China, decimating wild populations. Bird’s nest
soup, another delicacy, is made of swiftlet nests. Removing the
nests deprives birds of places to breed.
“Be careful about pharmacy purchases,” Telecky finished.
“Traditional Chinese medicines may contain parts of endangered
animals, which are believed to have potent healing properties.
Demand for these products has pushed rhinos and tigers to the edge of
extinction. In China, endangered Asiatic black bears are trapped
and kept in small cages so their bile can be extracted.”
“I don’t think people need to be worried too much about
consuming tiger, bear or other endangered species parts, whether in
traditional Chinese medicine or restaurants,” responded Animals Asia
Foundation founder Jill Robinson, whose China Bear Rescue Project
has freed more than 250 bears from bile farms and has won hugely
favorable publicity both in China and worldwide, inspiring a
parallel project in Vietnam.
“They would be paying significantly more for these [wildlife
products], having had to ask for them, being aware that this is
what they are consuming. These parts are not hidden for consumers to
munch on in oblivion,” Robinson explained, “for the obvious reason
that the traders want to exploit these poor animals for a goodly
Robinson emphasized to animal advocates who demanded an
Olympic boycott, with little visible response, that within China
“Targeting is happening. Peaceful protests in the streets in Beijing
at the Korean restaurants have grown, and in the major dog and cat
eating capitals too,” notably Guangdong, the only region where cats
are commonly eaten, and the scene of several major anti-cat eating
demonstrations within the past two years.
Robinson cited the rising popularity within China of dog
therapy, beginning with the Dr. Dog program she started 14 years ago.
“The motivation and change is coming from within China,”
Robinson said, “from those who understand the issues and arguments,
and intelligently articulate the concept of healing without harm.”
Halfway through the Olympics, the only demonstration in
support of any cause to have attracted much note was a pro-animal
press conference held on August 6 by U.S. swimmer Amanda Beard, 26,
a four-time Olympian who won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in
Warned by eight plainclothes Chinese security officials the
previous evening against holding a scheduled press conference at her
hotel to decry the Chinese fur industry, Beard instead “unveiled a
demure nude photograph of herself urging ‘Don’t wear fur,” Reuters
reported, “in front of reporters and TV cameras outside the heavily
fenced Olympic athletes’ village. Security guards watched the media
scrum from the south gate of the village, but did not intervene.
The German Olympic cycling team, heading out for training in hot,
muggy weather, stopped for a look.”
“Beard, who has posed nude in men’s magazines, said she
decided to participate in the PETA [‘I’d rather go naked than wear
fur’] campaign because she loves animals and was horrified to see how
fur was produced for fashion in some places,” added Associated Press
sportswriter John Pye.