Animal-rights activists are barking mad over news that trickled out over the weekend involving a truck full of 520 dogs that was stopped Friday on a highway en route to a slaughterhouse.
Discussion of the issue was rife over the next two days, particularly online, with people debating the merits of national laws protecting animals.
A man surnamed An saw the truck at the Tongzhou section of the Beijing-Harbin expressway at 11 am Friday. Suspecting the dogs were illegally acquired, he forced the truck to stop and asked others for help via his microblog, according to media reports.
“After overtaking my truck, An’s car abruptly braked, forcing me to make a panicked stop,” Hao Xiaomao, the truck driver, told the Global Times. “It would have been a rear-end collision if I had reacted slower.”
After seeing An’s blog, hundreds of animal activists began arriving at the scene with mineral water and food. Some celebrities and foreigners were also rumored to have shown up.
Their presence jammed the highway temporarily and forced police to shut down a nearby exit, according to reports.
The police later found that Hao had all the necessary paperwork, including regarding animal quarantine and immunity, for the dogs, but activists refused to abandon their rescue effort.
After nearly 15 hours, the incident ended with a pet company and an environmental conservation foundation co-buying the dogs for about 115,000 yuan ($17,606).
However, Hao said he still suffered a 20,000-yuan lost due to his failure to deliver the dogs to Jilin Province.
Accusing the activists of acting improperly, Hao, 33, said, “They were neither the police nor inspectors. Besides, their acts were too dangerous on a highway.”
“I transported dogs as (I would) pigs, cows and sheep. The country does not ban the consumption of dog meat,” Hao said, adding that the dogs were purchased from their breeders, not stolen.
As word spread, many animal-rights supporters hailed the saving of lives, but others questioned the legitimacy of such action.
Dog-saving stirs debate
Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA), called the move “a brave act,” adding that “society should encourage such moves, despite their risks.”
Qin, who rushed to the site with six colleagues, told the Global Times yesterday that the dogs were in the custody of China Small Animal Protection Association in Beijing.
Zhu Feng, a volunteer and a veterinarian who works in an animal hospital and who saw the dogs, told the Global Times that most of the dogs were in serious condition.
The move was about kindness and conscientiousness in our society, He Jiong, a famous TV host, wrote on his blog.
However, an online poll by huanqiu.com yesterday showed that about 69 percent of about 7,000 voters did not support the activists.
“One group’s love and kindness should not violate others’ freedom, rights and interests, otherwise, they would become evil,” Lian Yue, a well-known columnist, said on his mircoblog yesterday, adding that the activists were no different than home intruders.
Some people said the animal rights supporters should care more about people, as there are many people who could benefit greatly from 100,000 yuan.
Wang Sixin, a law professor at Beijing-based China University of Communication, told the Global Times that some online comments may be irrational, but they reflect the division in society over this issue.
Chang Jiwen, a scholar with the Social Law Research Department at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that he hopes the incident promotes the passing of laws on animal welfare.
“As long as animals are consumed, there will be clashes between activists and consumers,” said Chang, who let an expert panel in proposing a law against animal cruelty in 2009, which was sent to the National People’s Congress.
Under the draft, it would be illegal to eat and sell dog and cat meat.
The eating of dog meat has been a tradition in China throughout the country’s history. However, like other traditions, such as foie gras, whaling and bull fighting, this one faces increasing objection from animal-rights groups.
According to the Beijing Times, the South Korean government drew criticism during the 2002 World Cup from rights groups angry about the country’s dog-eating tradition. To avoid such discontent, Chinese authorities ordered hotels to stop selling dog meat during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Liu Linlin and Pan Yan contributed to this story.