I guess in a land where people still go hungry, it sometimes seems a little luxurious to care about what happens to the animals – but it’s hard not to have a reaction when hearing about the constant and seemingly systematic cruelty to dogs in this country. Recently, an illegal dog slaughterhouse was uncovered in Jilin Province, where about 300 dogs a day were slaughtered and then sold for their meat.
Villagers said the slaughterhouse had been in operation for over two years and was finally closed because of “substandard sanitation” – though they had a document to approve managing meat, they failed health checks and had already been ordered to suspend their business.
The rest of the article on Netease goes into detail about the horrors they saw three days before the authorities came to shut them down: how newborn puppies that were born en route to the slaughterhouse were thrown to the side of the road; how one dog tried to escape, only to be smashed over the head before it could limp through the gates; how all the carcasses are tossed into one communal boiling pot of water. It’s gruesome stuff (and so are the pictures on CinaOggi, where we first saw this article – warning: they’re not for the weak of heart).
But while this was just a shady business enterprise, being sold for meat is not the only threat to dogs in the country.
Even in the pet industry, there’s rampant abuse. Last year, we found out about the practice of vendors dying puppies into more “lucrative” colors and then drugging them to hide their sickness. These dogs are inevitably called “one week-ers” because that’s how long they last. When we went to the Shanghai Zoo a few months ago, we witnessed cages upon cages of “pure breeds” festering in their own filth – a pretty regular site amongst China’s animal parks.
There’s also the disturbing affinity for massive dog culls. In 2006, a government-ordered crackdown after three people died of rabies turned into the slaughter of 50,000 dogs in Yunnan province.
Even more recently, around this time last year over 37,000 dogs were culled in the northern Chinese city of Hanzhong. City workers fanned out across the city, clubbing to death any unattended dogs they found on the street – some were clubbed to death even though they had been licensed, vaccinated and leashed, animal activists said.
Luckily for our four-legged friends, there is some good news. When officials tried to cull dogs for the Olympics, Beijing residents protested en masse and the killings were stopped. And at least one city has shown itself open to more pragmatic and proactive ideas on canine management.
Animal rights activists in Nanjing have worked with the Nanjing police to develop a system more focused on education and health, rather than wanton slaughtering. As a result, Nanjing’s dog registration fee is the cheapest in China at only 300RMB and they have the highest vaccination rates as well (Shanghai, want to take note, maybe?).
While much of the debate about the treatment of dogs has been centered on whether they should be pets or food – does that really matter? Cruel slaughtering methods are disgusting, even when the animal doesn’t resemble Lassie. I’m the last to call for Chinese people to stop eating something just because it’s cute, but it wouldn’t hurt to never have to see something like dog culls, dyed dogs, or this Jilin slaughterhouse ever again.