As the Yulin Dog Meat Festival continues to mark the Summer Solstice, so does international condemnation. For a number of years, I've worked with Animals Asia who, as well as working to end Bear Bile Farming, strive to end the cat and dog meat trade. I've been witness to countless hours of undercover footage recorded at the meat markets which are quite the most horrendous thing I have ever seen. It's animal suffering on an unholy scale which leaves an indelible mark. And that's just from the film. Imagine actually being there; the heat, sounds, smells all adding to the visual nightmare. Honestly, I'm not writing this for effect, it's truly hell.
If we park the notion that eating cat and dog meat is cruel, which it is, we're left with logistics and mechanics of the process. Where do the dogs and cats come from? How are they stored and transported? How are they killed? How are they cooked? Unsurprisingly, the story gets worse.
Dogs and cats used in the meat trade can be strays or bred on purpose. However, a proportion are also family pets stolen by criminal gangs and sold on to the trade for profit. Dogs left in gardens, or in cars when the owners nip in to a shop are taken, thrown in to a truck and, in the majority of cases, never seen again. Owners are sometimes threated and intimated to hand over their animals. As for storage and transport, they're piled in to cages, one on top of another, often ten or more dogs high and left unattended until they are required. Illness is rife with distemper infecting a large proportion of the animals. Ironically, there are no 'quality' checks so this disease will be consumed. The killing is slow, clumsy and barbaric, often with knives and clubs. And the cooking, well, I've seen living dogs dropped in to boiling water. Sickened? You should be. Because this is not a representation of the responsibility bestowed upon humans towards all living things. This is torture to honour a tradition that no God or Deity would condone.
One of the routes to successfully end this vile practice is to first change the National attitude in China. Already, there are huge numbers of animal activists who are making waves to ensure fellow countrymen realise that the practice is barbaric. Stop the need and the supply will inevitably follow. The next step is to re-educate and find alternative employment for those who work at the coal face. I've met staff who have worked for bear file farmers and were re-employed to work at the sanctuaries who saved those bears. It's not easy, but it can happen with patience, time and an intelligent approach. As for the criminals that insidiously feed the trade? There's no prison dark enough.
China is, and always has been, a socially complicated country. A country steeped in pride, tradition and poverty is one that will never change overnight with every action having a politically charged reaction. However, in this age of communication and social media, we can all send a message regardless of who and where we are. The cat and dog meat trade is a terrible thing and it needs to stop. And we can support those groups on the ground who have tasked themselves with doing whatever they need to to change attitudes and put in place systems to ensure that the trade will be dismantled brick by brick thus ensuring it can never be built again.
Just one final note. A couple of years ago I made a film with a wonderful veterinary nurse called Helena Malloy. Her story was remarkable as she adopted a dog call Twizzle who she rescued from the meat trade and personally covered the £5000 fees to fly him back to the UK. So, despite the horrors that are currently going on under the guise of 'celebration' in China remember that Helen represents who we really are. A nation of animal lovers who will never ignore this suffering.