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July 20, 2011

HSI Supports Animal Protection in Asia

Humane Society International

  • Advocates gathered from around Asia. Jennifer Cook/istock

  • Opening ceremony of the conference. Iris Ho/HSI

  • HSI president & CEO Andrew Rowan addresses attendees. Iris Ho/HSI

  • HSI's wildlife campaign manager Iris Ho (right) met with representatives of the Jane Goodall Institute during the conference. Iris Ho/HSI

by Peter Li

In mid-June, Asia’s biggest gathering of animal advocacy groups, activists, scholars and government officials converged on Chengdu, China for the 2011 Asia for Animals Conference. Drawing a crowd of 350 attendees from 25 countries, the conference covered a wide variety of key subjects impacting animals in the region. Dr. Andrew Rowan, HSI’s president & CEO, headed our delegation to the meeting, which we helped sponsor.

An event with impact

Humane Society International has been involved with this conference since its inception in 2001. As the biggest Asian event for exchanging ideas, sharing experiences, showcasing success stories, and disseminating best practices in animal care, Asia for Animals has become an important opportunity to gain a feel for the tempo and direction for actions in the region, a new frontier in the global campaign for animal protection and an area of growing strategic importance for HSI.

A range of topics

With a theme of “Out of the box: Bringing animal cruelty to an end,” the event featured workshop and panel topics on how to empower and strengthen local groups, run a successful shelter, organize and start disaster rescue efforts,  conduct humane education, care for animals in captivity, manage companion animals, deal with wildlife protection, and fight for farm animal welfare. Policy-making for animal protection was another focus of discussion, and the subject of alternatives to animal testing was covered for the first time.

Presentations made by HSI delegates touched on key issues with a potential for long-term impact in Asia. Dr. Rowan’s speech on “Ending Toxicity Testing on Animals in the 21st Century” was of special significance in view of the fact that China has become a new world center of animal use in labs and other facilities.“Rabies Eradication and Free-Roaming Dogs Population Management Through Spay and Neuter,” presented by HSI India director Rahul Sehgal, used HSI experiences in Bhutan and the Philippines to highlight the effectiveness of preventive measures in urban animal management. This experience is of particular relevance to many Asian countries, where mass, indiscriminate dog culls are still conducted.

A chance to connect

HSI uses each Asia for Animals Conference to liaise with local groups and governments. In Chengdu, HSI delegates participated in discussions leading to the creation of a “national coordination committee” to represent all mainland Chinese NGOs in dealings with the media, the public and the government. HSI president & CEO Dr. Rowan met with officers of Nanjing Police Department, a key contributor to China’s most progressive urban animal management policy.  He also met with Secretary General of the China Association of Zoological Gardens Mm. Hu Zhongping, and Mr. Zhang Jinguo, deputy director of Beijing Zoo. Dr. Rowan expressed appreciation to both for their efforts in pushing for an animal performance ban which became national policy last October. Mm. Hu and Mr. Zhang thanked HSI for working with their organizations to improve animal welfare in Chinese zoos.

Challenges and progress

The make-up of the delegations at the Chengdu conference mirrored the diversity of the opportunities and obstacles in the region.  South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia continued to dominate the event, as in the past. China and India had the most delegates attending. By contrast, the Middle East and Central Asia were severely underrepresented.

In all, the meeting was a huge success. Animals Asia Foundation and its highly efficient team designed a seamless agenda and carried it out smoothly and efficiently. HSI attendees thank AAF for a most memorable experience in Chengdu.

Dr. Peter Li is HSI's China Specialist.