(Update: The article originally implied that dog meat meat trade still exists in Taiwan, which is false. Dog meat trade in Taiwan was banned in 2003. Also, Mr Chu Tseng-Hung’s activism is focused in Taiwan, not China as was originally stated. My apologies for the errors.)
Duo Duo is a very lucky dog! She was born in China for the sole purpose of being experimented on. When she could no longer serve that purpose she was to be sold to the dog meat market for about US $5. Then she caught the eye of Andrea Gung, a Taiwanese-American who was visiting China. That started them both on an adventure that, I am sure, neither of them would have expected.
Andrea was inspired to help end the dog meat trade in mainland China. Contrary to popular belief, dogs and cats are not part of a typical diet of the Chinese people. There are only two regions in China that consume the flesh of dogs and cats, and even there it’s not all year around.
There is a particular festival, called the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, once a year that sees the biggest demand for dog meat. All dogs sold at the festival are stolen from their caretakers. Many still have their collars and outfits they were dressed in when they were stolen. It is much easier for people to steal dogs to be sold for their meat than for them to be farmed like cows, pigs and chickens.
Andrea’s organization, Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, named after Duo Duo (meaning extra) the dog, held its first conference to highlight this and other issues related to the exploitation of non-human animals in China and Taiwan on April 26th at the Golden Gate University in San Francisco. I was fortunate enough to attend.
What I learned inspired me and gave me hope for the future of our relationship to non-human animals everywhere. Western views of Chinese relationship with non-human animals are often seen as barbaric. And, we tend to believe that there is no changing that. Dr. Peter Li of Humane Society International (HSI), speaking at the conference, however, showed that there has been over a three-fold increase in the amount of organized animal rights/welfare groups since 2000. While eliminating and reducing existing forms of non-human animal exploitation, they are preventing the import of other cruelty products and activities, like seal meat from Canada.
Increasingly, as the one-child policy generation (children who have no siblings due to government mandated one-child per family) comes of age they are getting more involved in the better treatment of non-human animals. For many of these kids growing up, their only friends were non-human animals.
And it isn’t only house animals that are benefiting by these new generation of activists. Chu Tseng-Hung, a Buddhist monk who gave up his religion to stand up for farmed animals in Taiwan talked about the strides activists are making in reducing and eliminating the exploitation of farmed animals in East Asia. This is of great importance, considering the harmful effects of animal agriculture on the environment and the increased demand for animal foods as Chinese people become wealthier.
Developing nations like China have an opportunity to leap-frog the western nations as they have done in other areas like renewable energy in eliminating cruelty and exploitation of non-human animals. Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project is helping make sure that it happens.
Image credits: Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project (header), Mike Marvel (inset)