TAKING A BITE OUT OF A BRUTAL TRADE
The Magazine/ Features
As one of the world’s largest dog-meat markets ends the sale of canine meat, Marie Carter asks if this could finally bring an end to the cruel practice that still thrives in Asia
The NoToDogMeat campaign has thousands of active supporters around the globe, demanding an end to consumption of dog meat
Camille is a little Pekingese-mix dog with beautiful brown eyes. Gentle and kind, he was obviously someone’s pet for the first few years of his life. Pekingese dogs are a firmly established part of Chinese heritage dating back to the time of the emperors – beloved companions of their masters and revered in the palaces. How, in August 2015, he came to be in a cage on the back of a truck bound for slaughter, with more than 300 other dogs, remains a mystery to this day. Was he stolen? Or was he sold into the dog meat trade – a cruel industry where more than 10 million dogs and cats each year are brutally tortured for food and fur?
Camille is one of the lucky ones. Despite still suffering from a skin condition, he has now recovered from a life-threatening bout of distemper – a viral disease that affects a wide variety of animals – thanks to swift medical treatment and, most of all, the love that had been missing in his life for such a long time.
It may seem incredible to many that in the 21st century, millions of dogs and cats are still brutally slaughtered, sometimes even skinned alive, for food and fur. Camille’s rescue, and that of many other examples of man’s best friend, is down to the indefatigable efforts of campaigners such as Julia de Cadenet. Just over four years ago, Julia raised an e-petition to the British Government urging the foreign office to intervene and push for animal welfare laws in South Korea and the closure of the horrific Moran Market. They declined to assist, stating they could “not influence the culture of other nations.”
Part of the problem with the dog meat trade is many people are even oblivious to the fact they are eating dog
The Government’s response, coupled with Julia’s first-hand accounts of the dog meat trade, led to the NoToDogMeat campaign being launched across social media and the creation of the charity World Protection for Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade (www.notodogmeat.com), which is based in Westminster. Julia and her team are working to change attitudes, and change is happening. Just a few weeks ago, it was announced by Seongnam City Government in South Korea that the slaughter of dogs will be abolished and butchery facilities removed from the country’s largest dog meat market, ‘Moran Market’. South Koreans, especially younger people, had been exerting pressure on the Mayor of Seoul to clamp down on the trade. That pressure, together with the work of organisations like Julia’s, has led to the start of a real backlash against the industry. Practically, Julia’s charity is also part of the committee that is pushing to offer alternative employment to the traders.
Camille, here with his carers, has for the most part regained his health
There are still an estimated 17,000 dog meat farms in South Korea alone, animal rights activists say. Although considered totally unacceptable by Western standards, a large number of people in South Korea as well as in China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, consume dog meat. The industry dates back centuries, and in Korean culture, soups and other dishes made with dog meat are considered delicacies. Younger South Koreans however tend to shy away from eating dogs, and the percentage of South Koreans who eat dog meat on a regular basis is believed to be relatively small. Nevertheless, 2 million dogs are to be killed for food every year in South Korea alone, and over 100,000 metric tonnes of dog meat are consumed annually, according to statistics from the not-for-profit organisation International Aid for Korean Animals. Consumption increases in summer, as there is a belief that eating dog will keep one cool. This is particularly evident during Bok days, the three hottest days of the summer according to the lunar calendar.
Some Koreans, especially men and rich Chinese businessmen, see serving dog as a sign of respect. They still prescribe to the belief that if the texture of the meat is altered by beating the dogs it tastes better and helps with impotency.
Part of the problem with the dog meat trade is many people are even oblivious to the fact they are eating dog. Bali a is a good example where working under cover with BARC (Bali Dogs) Julia and her team discovered many restaurants near holiday spots frequented by thousands of British tourists each year where dog is labelled as chicken.
There are still an estimated 17,000 dog meat farms in South Korea, activists claim
In Vietnam, gangs steal dogs to sell on to the dog meat trade, and many would have their pet dog cruelly butchered to feed an elderly sick relative, says Julia. In China, the trade is big business and reaches its pinnacle with the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, commonly referred to as Yulin Dog Meat Festival. This is an annual event held in Yulin, Guangxi, China, during the summer solstice in which festival goers eat dog meat and lychees. Spanning about ten days, an estimated 10,000–15,000 dogs are consumed. Yulin’s local government has denied any official involvement or endorsement of the festival itself, and describes the event as a local custom observed by “a small percentage” of Yulin’s residents.
Two million dogs are to be killed for food every year in South Korea alone
And yet the end of the sale of dog meat trade at Moran Market has led to hope that one day the dog meat trade will end. Korea is one of the only countries in Asia that operates small and large dog farms as well as trading in former pets. In 2012, the farmers actually took to the streets to demand the trade was legalised (it wasn’t) and unless they are financially compensated they will protest against attempts to clamp down on the trade.
Claudette is one of many dogs rescued and waiting for a home
World Protection for Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade has set up a partner shelter just South of Beijing where over 400 dogs and 36 cats have been rescued from Yulin, its slaughterhouses and trucks. The charity aims to build a small medical facility that can be used by neighbouring yards and to promote microchipping, spaying and neutering and rabies vaccinations. In China, steps are being taken to educate the growing population of middle class Chinese who are increasingly becoming pet owners. Sadly, there is a height restriction for dogs in the cities (35cm) which makes placing large dogs a problem.
Julia de Cadenet is clearly passionate about bringing this barbaric trade to end, and her many first-hand accounts have helped shape her determination. She wants to rescue as many animals as she can from the hell of this trade, and also change mindsets through her charity.
“I met in the diplomatic area a lovely young couple who had two German Shepherd in Beijing. They told me they had bought them from a farmer in the north. When I pointed out if the dog grew over 35cm it could be confiscated by the police, they said they knew but were sure it would go safely back to the farm,” she says.
“Last summer, I went to a slaughterhouse with our Chinese Partner Mr Zhao where German Shepherds from puppy farms had ended up as meat. We rescued a truck load we bought for $2 each. Their condition was pitiful.”
The process of adopting and bringing a dog to Europe can last three months and involves multiple vaccinations and rigorous blood testing
“The change in animal welfare attitudes has definitely come from ordinary people who are not traditional activists taking to the streets to protest against the dog and cat meat trade and massive tweeting and social media campaigns. There is a growing middle class in China who pamper their pets but many would still keep a small dog in a cage all its life like a hamster. What shocked me not just at Yulin but at meat markets in general is how small some of the dogs are.”
Julia adds that there is no distinction in China and in Vietnam between breeds that are kept as pets and then slaughtered or used for fur. Samoyeds, for instance, were once prized pets but are increasingly ending up on trucks bound for slaughter. She says: “What shocked me not just at Yulin but at meat markets in general is how small some of the dogs are. Many end up as pot noodle in fact so people do not even really know or care they are eating dogs.”
Cats are mostly strays. The charity works with a couple of cat rescues in Shanghai. Pretty much every week traders round up cats and ship them down to the south where they are eaten as “little tiger”.
Camille still suffers from a mild skin condition but has recovered fully from distemper, a viral disease affecting canines and other animals
The horrific cruelty issue aside, eating dog and cat poses very real health risks as many suffer from diseases such as rabies, distemper, parvovirus and various airborne diseases. The charity is currently lobbying the World Organisation for Animal Health (www.oie.int) and the UN to declare dogs unfit for human consumption. The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture also declared last May that reducing all meat consumption is beneficial to both health and the environment.
So, is it possible to adopt a dog rescued from the meat trade? Unlike adoptions to America where, after just 10 days, a dog can often fly to his new home with only basic vaccinations, the process of bringing dogs into Europe can last over three months and involves multiple vaccinations and rigorous blood testing. Only one dog can travel with one passenger at any given time and last year, as Julia and her team were preparing their own trip back to China, they received wonderful news that at last a kind Chinese journalist had agreed to bring Camille to Paris. Camille arrived in the early hours to be greeted by his rescuers and one of the charity’s mascot Samoyeds. Like many other dogs rescued from the meat trade, Camille has been saved by medicine and by love.
Case study: Oliver
Oliver was one of many dogs caught by criminal gangs
Oliver is one of the dogs – many strays or former pets – who are rounded up each year by criminal gangs paid to transport dogs and cats in packed tightly in cages on trucks to festivals like Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
The UK registered charity World Protection for Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade works directly with rescuers in Asia to help end this cruel trade. Typically, once a truck is stopped by rescuers there is a stand-off while activists and rescuers plead with the police to release the dogs. This can take days and many die from stress and dehydration, too weak to continue. Disease is rife and in Oliver’s case although he tested negative for distemper he had a very serious chest infection and his own coughs broke his ribs.
In the holding yard, the charity’s rescuers immediately bonded with Oliver. He was so gentle and sweet and despite all his matted fur he weighed just a few kilos. It has taken months of care and treatment for Oliver to regain his strength but now he is a different dog, confident and full of life.