WAYNE HSIUNG, DXE CO-FOUNDER, INVESTIGATOR & FORMER NORTHWESTERN PROFESSOR OF LAW
Like so many of us, I grew up seeing dogs as my friends and I wanted to see with my own eyes what humanity is doing to them. What I found shocked me - not just because of what happened to dogs but because of how it made me see the way we treat other species here in the U.S.
Though many of us see dogs as exclusively our companions, the largest worldwide study on the origins of domesticated dogs suggests that they may have been bred for a very different purpose: to be our food, most likely in southern China. Today, this tradition persists most visibly in the form of the Yulin Dog Meat festival, where more than 10,000 dogs are killed annually to be eaten. In the entire dog meat industry in China anywhere from 10 to 20 million dogs are killed annually, though this number is dwarfed by the numbers of birds, fish, and pigs killed for food both in China and in the U.S.
My family is from southern China, so I undertook this investigation with the aid of my fellow activists in part to understand how dogs - and all animals - were treated in the land of my heritage. I had previously visited a number of Chinese activists, including VShine Animal Protection Group, the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, and the Humane Society International and saw the potential for a vibrant grassroots movement in China to challenge violence against and slaughter of not only dogs but all animals.
We flew to Yulin, China and made nightly visits to a farm where dogs are raised for food and a slaughterhouse where dogs are killed. We placed undercover cameras in a slaughterhouse. One day while I was planting the cameras a crowd gathered around me and a woman pointed me out to a gang. Men suddenly grabbed me from behind, ripped my backpack off, and started beating me in the head until I was bloodied and bruised. They only stopped when an onlooker pleaded with them.
Every dog I saw looked helpless and desperate for care. They were routinely beaten, picked up by the neck with cruel tools, and starved to the point of attacking each other for any scraps of food. It’s the same behavior I’ve seen on U.S. farms where baby turkeys and chickens routinely trample and peck at each other in the mad rush for food.
Most striking in Yulin was one young dog who we named Oliver after the orphan from Dickens’ novel. When we saw him, Oliver was tiny and losing fur across his body. He shared his pen with two other dogs who like him cowered in fear. They had skinny faces and bodies but round distended bellies from parasitic infections. They were barking, seemingly for help, but as soon as I approached they attempted to flee.
After seeing Oliver and several other dogs our team had to make the darkest decision in any rescue: who to save. I’ve been on many farms where I’ve had to make this decision: which pig to save from a finishing facility or which of the dozens of birds trapped in filth to save from an egg facility. You always come away from it with a dreadful sense of guilt. We decided to rescue Oliver and we brought him home to the U.S.
Oliver was scared of us at first but he warmed up astonishingly fast. He plays with my other two dogs, Lisa and Natalie. When he sees me he dances and twirls in joy. Seeing Oliver brings me back to the dozens of other animals I’ve rescued. A pig named Miley. Two turkeys named Sara and Angie. A hen named Mei. While the species is different, the story is the same. A human being decided that Oliver’s life didn’t matter. Decided that our desire for flesh justified causing Oliver fear and pain. And in China, as in the U.S., activists are rising up to stop this.
CHRIS VAN BREEN, DXE CO-FOUNDER & INVESTIGATOR
My trip to China for this investigation brought me to tears not only for the dogs there but for all the animals who I have rescued and for those who I had to leave behind on farms in the United States. It is important to note that on just about every level, what we do to animals in the United States is far worse than what they do in China. We mutilate animals more regularly, confine animals more tightly, and kill animals far more frequently per person than they do in China.
What happens in Yulin is disturbing not only because of how horrific it is but because of how similar it is to what we do in the United States. I have been inside over a half-dozen farms in the United States, including farms for eggs, turkey flesh, and pig flesh. On every single one, what I saw horrified me. I saw turkeys standing on each others’ rotting bodies unable to move. I saw pigs so tightly confined they could not turn their heads. I’ve seen a bird named Emma who recovered from being trapped in the wire floor of a cage with a broken leg to being a happy and loved individual, just like Oliver who we rescued from Yulin.
Today is a day not just to condemn the dog meat industry in China but to condemn animal exploitation in the United States as well and to join animal rights groups like Direct Action Everywhere in pushing for animals to be regarded as persons with the right to be free from harm under the law.
Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is an international grassroots network seeking to expose and challenge violence against animals. We have had actions in over 150 cities in 30 different countries. In light of this investigation we are encouraging all people of conscience to join animal rights movements in their own countries to demand that all animals be protected from harm.
Nobody should take from our investigation the idea that China is crueler toward animals than the United States - instead, we should show solidarity with Chinese activists who are challenging this trade in their own country. Groups like VShine Animal Protection Group, the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, and the Humane Society International are doing stellar work there to stop this violent industry and we should support them as well as groups challenging violence against animals in the U.S.
The evening of June 30th 10,000 activists will be gathering in cities around the world to hold a vigil for each of the over 10,000 animals killed in Yulin each year and for all animals killed by humans. We urge everyone concerned by the violence exposed by our investigation to visit Direct Action Everywhere online or on Facebook to join this campaign and to join all campaigns to end violence against animals.