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November 23, 2016

Saving dogs from China's dog meat trade

Humane Society International

  • .Some of the animals we have helped rescue. Xi'an Angels Volunteer Group

  • CAPP

  • CAPP

  • Xi'An Angels Volunteer Group

  • Meredith Lee/The HSUS

  • Kevin Wolf/AP Images for HSI

  • Meredith Lee/The HSUS

  • Peter Li/HSI

China is believed to kill (along with 4 million cats) more than 10 million of the estimated 30 million dogs slaughtered for human consumption annually worldwide. The majority are stolen pets and strays, grabbed from the street or from backyards, sometimes poisoned to ease capture. Hundreds of animals at a time are crammed together in cages and driven—sometimes for days—to their deaths. They are often sick or injured, and many die from shock, suffocation, dehydration or heatstroke long before they reach their destination. Those who survive the journey face a brutal and terrifying ordeal: being beaten to death or sometimes, even boiled alive at a slaughterhouse or market.

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Despite the scale of this horror, dog eating is not widespread across China. Surveys show that a relatively small proportion of the population— around 20 percent—actually eats dog meat, and most Chinese citizens (69.5 percent of those surveyed in a 2016 poll commissioned by HSI/Avaaz) have never tried it. Eighty percent of dogs are slaughtered in three regions: South China, Central China and Northeast China.

Committed aid

HSI has worked in China for more than 10 years, in partnership with a network of 35 local animal protection groups in 24 cities across the country, and has become a leading global force to end China’s dog meat trade. HSI supported the establishment of a rescue team—China Animal Protection Power— who liaise with local police to stop trucks crammed with hundreds of dogs headed to slaughterhouses, in illegal cross-provincial transports that breach Chinese health and safety laws. CAPP provides life-saving food and water to the animals during roadside negotiations with police to confiscate them, and HSI has been able to help train these activists so that they have the veterinary first aid skills needed to save lives in these critical hours.

HSI has also long supported a network of animal shelters across China for the rehabilitation and eventual adoption of these dogs into new loving homes. Many of the rescued dogs are incredibly sick or injured; our donors' generosity has helped fund veterinary care to nurse them back to health, a warm bed and safe sanctuary so that they can recover and learn to trust again. It’s a sad fact that sending dogs to facilities with low standards of hygiene, veterinary care and poor management can lead to the animals' enduring even more suffering and ultimately perishing from disease, injuries or malnutrition, and that is why HSI only supports top-quality shelters who are a credit to China and its growing animal protection movement.

Why we don't condone buying dogs

With more than 10 million dogs a year suffering in China’s dog meat trade, we realize that rescue alone will never be the solution to ending this cruel business.

Rescue is a small but important part of our broader strategy across Asia. We agree with the growing coalition of Chinese animal protection groups opposed to the quick fix of buying dogs from traders and slaughterhouses. No matter how well-meaning, buying dogs—especially the large-scale purchasing of dogs from slaughterhouses during China’s notorious Yulin dog meat festival—is ultimately counterproductive, risking the unintended consequence of artificially boosting the dog meat trade. Yulin slaughterhouses can even deliberately accumulate larger numbers of dogs knowing that animal campaigners will be their highest-paying customers. They don't care who they make their profits from, as long as the trade continues.

HSI is determined that we do not contribute to its perpetuation, and that is why we believe that the interception of illegal dog trucks in co-operation with the police, where dogs are legally confiscated, or the rescue of dogs relinquished without payment from slaughterhouses or markets, including where possible at Yulin, is a better way to fight the trade in the long term.

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