NoToDogMeat founder Julia de Cadenet shares the charity’s journey, and her own personal reflections of starting the movement….
I never thought that I would be the kind of person that started a movement, but when I first saw the horrors of the dog meat trade on a trip to China in 2009, I knew that I had to do something and that no action was too small.
I have always loved dogs and had pet dogs, but what I saw there transcended even that enduring bond.
The sheer cruelty that was being inflicted on man’s best friend was unthinkable, and that humans could do those things to any living creature turned my head and changed my outlook forever.
In every country where dog meat is eaten, the people who do these things believe that the more intense the fear and torture experienced by the animals, the better flavour the meat will have. The belief is that stimulating as much adrenaline as possible through the animal’s body before death will make the meat more tasty and healthful.
Any dog can end up in the meat trade. Former companions, stolen pets, all types of purebreds, including cocker spaniels, poodles, Labradors, shih tzus, lhasa apsos and schnauzers. On a slaughterhouse liberation this year, we found dogs wearing collars, and piles of leashes and collars from dogs who had already been slaughtered.
Dogs from puppy mills, shelters, farmed dogs, dogs trafficked from the police pounds and dogs sold at closed dog auctions. Puppies are regarded as a delicacy.
When I got back to London I created a campaign group ‘NoToDogMeat’ hoping that I could drum up support from other like-minded people, both in China and here in the UK.
Anyone can use our logo, and we actively encourage people to use it as they see fit, to grow the campaign and spread the word.
I also created a charity around the campaign, World Protection For Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade. It is under this banner that the charity lobbies both governments and the United Nations. And we now hold Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.
Some of the dogs from the rescue centres are rehomed in China, while others travel abroad to find loving homes such as ambassador dog Annabel, a chow.
Annabel is blind in one eye as a result of her ordeal, and receives regular treatment for internal inflammation where organs were punctured as she was partially skinned. Some of her fur has never grown back.
Camille, like so many dogs on the trucks, caught distemper. This is the heartbreaking reality of rescue as infectious diseases can break out and it is almost impossible to save them. Dogs with distemper need to go into expensive intensive care and then are left with ‘ chattering teeth’ and other neurological or heart conditions.
Felicity the samoyed had her tail chopped off and her right hip was cracked, as a result she is very sensitive to grooming or being approached from the side, these behavioural issues we have had to address with patience.
All of the dogs that we have rescued bear the scars of what they have endured, but we believe that all dogs, no matter what they look like deserve a chance to be happy, and have the loving life that all dogs deserve.
Soon other charities and organisations were expressing support for the cause too, and we have been overwhelmed to see the vast outpouring of global public support for making a change.
Earlier this year, in response to the pandemic the Chinese government declared that dogs were not food, but just stopped short of making it the law.
We also recently opened our first shelter in Cambodia, expanding our reach, working with local people who want to make a difference.
But our fight for change has not been without controversy; and has included a number of steep learning curves and pitfalls in our overseas operations.
From a devastating fire earlier this year at our Beijing shelter, to having to hide animals during the covid pandemic due to fears that they carried the disease, our operation does not end, and I do not sleep as much as I should.
We have also been shut down by authorities in China, once in 2018 with 48 hours notice and earlier this year our small Beijing base was subject to sanctions.
I have poured all of my own resources into solving problems at a moment’s notice, including inheritance money from my mother, and we operate on a tiny budget.
Since 2009 Yulin, an ancient city in China has become notorious for holding a dog meat festival from 21st to 30th June, purportedly to celebrate the summer solstice where an estimated 10,000 dogs and cats are killed and eaten each year.
Far from being ancient or traditional, this festival, known worldwide as ‘Yulin’, was created to bring business to a place that was economically depressed. Sadly, it has been very successful in doing so.
What is not so well known is that Yulin happens all year round, all over the Chinese countryside. It is estimated that in China alone, 10 to 15 million dogs are eaten annually – some figures say 50,000 per day and 4 to 5 million cats.
Far from dying out, the dog and cat meat trade is a thriving, highly profitable industry thanks to a strong network of greedy restaurateurs, meat dealers and butchers who, out to make easy money, have convinced the public that eating dog and cat meat is healthful and fashionable.
Many may defend dog and cat eating as a country’s right to follow its ‘cultural tradition’.
Yet haven’t there been many cruel practices throughout history that have been banned as societies became more civilised and compassionate? After all, slavery and human sacrifice were once considered ‘cultural traditions’.
The ‘tradition’ of eating dog and cat meat is no different. We believe any country that supports or turns a blind eye to such malicious cruelty – whether toward humans or animals – has no right to call itself ‘civilised’.
In 2021 the World Health Organisation renewed its call for the sale of live wild mammals to be suspended at food markets in Asia, and China took the historic step of establishing a specific office in Beijing to protect pets – the China Compassion Animal Protection Office.
That same year China declared that dogs were not livestock and should not be treated as food, and banned the live slaughter of dogs.
This should have effectively outlawed Yulin, but lack of respect for and enforcement of the rules has emboldened organisers further.
So our campaign continues, and we will not stop until the dog and cat meat trade is outlawed forever.
I am heartened by the actions of young people, including our wonderful campaigner Anna Gan, who volunteers at the Beijing shelter.
Aged just 19, Anna gives talks at shopping centres and businesses, giving members of the public the opportunity to interact with the animals they may not see as loving pets.
In the West too, our canine ambassadors work wonders to help give a furry face to the dog meat trade.
We recently met members of the public at Crufts, and Felicity even walked the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival appearing in European media including Vanity Fair magazine!
For the first time since the pandemic, earlier this month, we were able to bring over our first two dogs from China too.
Debbie and Delphi are currently acclimatising at our accommodation in Paris, because travelling on to exciting new lives with loving owners in the UK.
But even in happy moments we always get drawn back to the job at hand, and Mr Zhao, our shelter manager and a group of campaigners are currently working hard at Yulin to rescue more dogs from a cruel and barbaric death, and collect information for our United Nations report.
Starting NoToDogMeat has shown me the very best and very worst of humanity, but I would not change it for the world.
This work has been a life calling for myself and so many others, and we can’t stop now, not when we know that dogs still suffer.
To donate to NoToDogMeat go to www.notodogmeat.com