by Peter Li
In April, we reported that more than 400 frightened, apparently abused dogs in China had been rescued from a slaughterhouse-bound truck that was part of the culinary sub-culture of dog eating in the country.
The animals were freed after more than 300 animal advocates, including representatives of HSI’s partner organizations in China, spent 17 hours in negotiation with the truck driver. The story drew worldwide attention and prompted an outpouring of sympathy from animal lovers across China.
Survival and recovery
Most of the dogs survived the ordeal, and today, around 360 are undergoing treatment for various ailments. HSI is helping to support the care of these animals. Eventually, efforts will be made to reunite them with their families; when that’s not possible, they’ll be made available for adoption. The dogs are in the care of our partner groups, China Small Animal Protection Association (CSAPA) and Beijing’s Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA).
Chinese advocates and animal lovers also are standing strong by these lucky dogs. They’re donating to help with their care and volunteering in the hospitals and facilities of CSAPA and CAWA, the latter a group started by an American who has lived in Beijing for almost 18 years.
Likely stolen from their homes
Evidence suggests that many of the dogs could be stolen family pets. CSAPA has received 19 long-distance calls from Henan’s Jiaozhuo, the origin of the truck, by people reporting their dogs missing. With so many different sizes and breeds, these dogs don’t seem to be farmed animals. The fact that pure-bred animals such as Tibetan mastiffs and golden retrievers were among those rescued further strengthens the case.
The most moving evidence that the dogs were probably beloved pets before nearly meeting a cruel end is how the animals act with the volunteers—like happy dogs looking for companionship and some playtime.
“When the caring volunteers have to say goodbye, the eyes of the dogs seem to ask ‘When are you coming back?’” said Professor Lu Di, director and founder of CSAPA. “These dogs are so forgiving. They embrace us humans and never hold our wrongdoings against us.”
Still in the headlines
The rescue continues to attract media attention. China’s national CCTV did two long special reports on it and Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV aired an hour-long talk show with advocates involved in the interception and post-rescue care.
Hundreds of thousands of comments about the rescue can be read on a variety of Chinese web sites, with an overwhelming majority condemning cruelty to animals and questioning the culinary sub-culture of dog eating.
A lasting impact
The rescue operation will have a long-lasting impact on China’s animal protection movement:
- For the first time, the movement drew the support of a major corporation in China. Advocates hope that this will jump-start more corporate participation.
- The operation once again highlighted the pressing issue of dog eating and its adverse impact on human health. More than half of the dogs rescued were seriously ill. Are they food or are they health hazards? The operation is forcing the Chinese authorities to rethink their passive position on dog eating and long-distance live transport.
- The rescue successfully tested the tolerance of the authorities with regard to autonomous societal activities. It can be expected that more brave actions shall be undertaken by the nation’s expanding animal protection community.
Dr. Peter Li is HSI’s China Policy Specialist.