The infamous Yulin dog meat festival takes place around the summer solstice, but the practice of eating dog meat continues year round in China. Last week, online tabloid newspapers widely shared a video of a greyhound-type dog being forced into a large barrel of boiling water. This type of brutal footage may increase click-rates for the websites in question, but at the cost of psychologically traumatising those who view the videos. It's enough to know that such appalling cruelty happens without seeing the images and hearing the sounds.
Sadly, the cruelty is an inherent part of the dog meat trade: there's a traditional belief that the meat tastes better if the animal suffers as it dies, with adrenaline coursing through the body.
Animals are more than just complex organic machines
This ties in with a cultural view that animals are automatons, not suffering pain or fear in the same way as humans. This view was a part of our own culture in the past, with even now some following the view of Descartes that animals are just complex organic machines. When I qualified as a vet 30 years ago, pain relief was not routinely given to animals after major surgery, and it was thought to be anthropomorphic to ascribe emotions and thoughts to animals.
Opinions have moved on, with the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness in establishing a line in the sand, as an international group of eminent scientists declared their belief that animals are indeed conscious and aware. Dynamic imaging studies demonstrate that animals have similar activity in the same parts of the brain as humans during many daily activities. This strongly suggests that animals have similar emotional and sensual awareness as humans. Our only defining feature is our larger forebrain which gives us a greater ability to remember, plan, worry and rationalise.
Anti-cruelty legislation in China is the answer
Back to those dogs being boiled alive in China. Online coverage has led to hundreds of petitions being set up by keyboard warriors calling for the Chinese to desist from this type of activity, but these are not going to change anything that's happening on the ground. The truth is that a large majority of the Chinese population also deplore what's going on, with polls showing that around 90% support anti-cruelty legislation.
The Chinese government has shown itself open to this approach: the RSPCA, working with an international alliance of animal welfare groups, has been closely involved in the development and promotion of China's draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Although the law – China's first ever legislation protecting animal welfare - has yet to be passed, its circulation as a draft is a significant step forwards.
If you want to take effective action to change how animals are treated in China, the best way is to support those who have already been pressing for change for the past twenty years or more. There are sixteen separate organisations working as an alliance: send your support to whichever group most closely meets your own aims.
Me: *writing the date at the top of an essay* me: *ponders using the date im writing it or the due date* me: *realizes theyre the same day*
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