I’ve got a dog rescue story out of China that will warm your heart – and also demonstrate that the cause of animal protection is gaining traction in the biggest nation in the world.
On Sunday evening, an activist with one of our partner groups in Beijing spotted a truck loaded with more than 400 dogs on the Beijing-Harbin Expressway. The truck was heading to Jilin in China’s far northeast, one of the country’s major dog meat markets. The dogs on board—some even wearing collars indicating they were stolen pets—were undoubtedly destined for that horrific fate too when this activist swung into action.
She tweeted about the truck and within the hour 30 volunteers had appeared in cars, chasing the truck and prompting local police to pull it over. The volunteers surrounded the truck and lifted all 400 dogs to safety. The next day, they pulled over four more trucks, rescuing another 2,000 dogs.
Dog eating is not illegal in mainland China. Yet it is increasingly controversial, and the volunteers—most in their 20s or early 30s—are among the group of Chinese animal advocates leading a shift in attitudes toward dogs. There is reason for optimism with the government in this case aligning with the dog advocates, not the dog traders.
By Monday afternoon, thousands of volunteers from as far away as Inner Mongolia stepped up to help with the rescue or to adopt the rescued dogs. Some brought food and medicine for the dogs, while others recited Buddhist prayers over the 30 dogs who had not survived the journey. Some people were even reunited with their stolen pets. By Wednesday evening, more than 1,900 dogs had been adopted or handed over to shelters for intensive care and future rehoming.
This successful rescue is an amazing credit to our partner groups— Capital Animal Welfare Association, VShine Group, On the Same Journey with You and Love First in Guangdong—that worked together to respond to the crisis. It’s also a credit to the people who saw animals in need and answered the call of mercy.
Humane Society International played an important role in the rescue operation. We responded to the first calls for help from the volunteers: we helped dispatch a group of 10 volunteers from a partner organization to the rescue battleground. And, in collaboration with our partner groups, we helped alert Chinese journalists to cover the rescue.
Going forward, we remain committed to attacking the root causes of the dog meat trade, and ending it. We’re helping governments to reform the lax laws and enforcement that allow the trade to flourish. In China, we are working with law enforcement and the animal protection community to improve urban animal management with the aim to thwart the nation’s dog meat industry. In Southeast Asia, we recently joined with other animal groups to host a conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, where officials agreed to consider a five-year moratorium on the cross-border dog trade.
Dog eating as a culinary sub-culture in now facing an unprecedented challenge in mainland China. This year HSI was present at the Yulin dog meat festival, where more people than ever before protested the slaughter of dogs. And we visited another city in Guangdong notorious for its dog meat market in June and found that only one restaurant was still operating in a street that used to be crowded with dog meat restaurants.
Of course millions more dogs aren’t as lucky as the 2,400 rescued this week. An estimated 15 million dogs are slaughtered in China, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam each year.
We are about to open an office in Vietnam, thanks to an outpouring of support at our Washington gala, with the first leadership gift made by National Council member Arthur Benjamin. A primary focus of that office will be to end the dog meat trade. We invite you to join this campaign, and the broader effort to end the dog meat trade across the globe, so that one day we’ll never see dogs jammed in trucks on a one-way trip to an abattoir.