China’s Gruesome Dog Meat Festival Has Been Canceled, Say Activists

Dogs for sale are kept in a cage in Dashichang dog market on the day of local dog meat festival in Yulin

By Charlie Campbell

Could the barbarity be at an end? It just might according to jubilant animal rights activists, who say this year’s Yulin dog meat festival — where 2,000 to 3,000 canines are rounded up, forced into cramped cages, bludgeoned to death and eaten — has been canceled by authorities in the southern Chinese city.

Citing local sources, campaign groups say the sale of dog meat has been banned from a week prior to the June 21 annual festival, with offenders facing arrest and fines of $15,000. The move was apparently ordered by Yulin’s new Chinese Communist Party Secretary Mo Gong Ming in a bid to reform the city’s image after a sustained international outcry. A petition calling for the festival to be abolished gained 11 million signatures last year.

“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” says Andrea Gung, executive director of Duo Duo Project, an anti-dog and cat meat campaign group. “This ban is consistent with my experience that Yulin and the rest of the country are changing for the better.”

However, it is unclear how any ban can be enforced, especially when the annual festival brings a healthy injection of cash to the city of 7 million. As the event has never been officially sanctioned, some advocates doubt the government’s ability to prevent individuals from partaking.

“Eating dog has been Yulin people’s tradition for quite a long time,” Ms. Tan, the owner of Three-Six Delicious Meat Restaurant in Yulin, tells TIME by phone. “I haven’t heard our government will stop the festival, or stop the selling of dog meat.”

While eating dog and cat has historic cultural roots in China, like many Asian nations, activists say the Yulin festival was only concocted in 2010 by dog meat traders and tenuously linked to the summer solstice. In fact, dog meat is much more common in China’s rural north, even as the nation’s burgeoning urban middle class increasingly keep well-preened pedigrees as pets.

“More people like dogs now, and especially in Beijing a lot have pet dogs,” says housewife Cheng Jie, while walking her four-year-old Pekingese by Beijing’s Houhai Lake. “But because there is rabies, a lot of people are still afraid of dogs and many parents teach their children to be wary of dogs.”

Activists say most of the 10 million dogs and around four million cats killed for meat each year in China are strays and stolen pets. The unregulated nature of the trade helps the spread of rabies and cholera, according to the World Health Organization. China has the second highest number of reported rabies cases in the world, with an average of 2,000 deaths per year for the past 10 years. About 90% of cases are due to dog bites.

“Most dog meat currently on the market doesn’t have a legal certificate,” says Li Weimin, a lawyer based in Beijing who has worked on the legality of dog meat. “It’s hard to tell the enforcement of the new rule in Yulin, but it’s progress. Other cities will watch Yulin closely and may follow its example.”

Even so, economics means the wider dog meat trade will likely continue. Because the majority of dog meat comes from stolen pets, there are no rearing costs, making it much cheaper than pork, chicken or beef, for example. Activists want stricter enforcement on existing prohibitions on the transportation of live animals to stamp out the trade for good.

“The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet,” says Peter Li, China Policy specialist at Humane Society International. “But if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolize China’s crime-fueled dog meat trade.”

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What chimpanzees deserve: Attorney who represents Tommy and Kiko makes the case for their legal personhood

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By:Steven M.Wise

I am an attorney for two chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko. Unlike most attorneys, I have spent no time with my clients, because they are “owned” by people in upstate New York, held captive without the company of other chimpanzees in an environment radically different from their natural habitat.

Thursday, with the support of other lawyers and supporters across the globe, I will argue before a New York appeals court that Tommy and Kiko are legal “persons” with the fundamental right to bodily liberty. We will argue that, as autonomous beings, they have the right to be released from captivity and sent to an appropriate sanctuary.

Chimpanzees communicate with humans using sign language and computers. They make and use tools, have the capacity to imagine, understand the past and plan for the future, are aware of their environments, recognize themselves in mirrors, and take care of orphaned baby chimpanzees. In captivity, they can experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Our legal claims are based on the best scientific findings on genetics, intelligence, emotions and social lives of these animals showing they are self-aware, autonomous beings.

Chimpanzees are not the only animals who are autonomous and self-aware. Gorillas cry when they are sad. Elephants mourn other elephants in their herd when they die. The size of a dolphin’s brain, compared to their body size, is second only to humans. All of these animals are aware of their environments and recognize themselves in mirrors. We are in the midst of planning litigation on behalf of elephants and dolphins as well.

In court, we aren’t arguing chimpanzees should have the same rights as humans. We are arguing that courts must recognize them as “persons” with the capacity for fundamental rights appropriate to the kind of beings that evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience unequivocally tell us they are. They are not legal “things,” though this is how they’re currently viewed and treated. And legal personhood is not about biology, but rather, public policy, as a lower court agreed in another of our chimpanzee rights cases.

Tommy lives in a cage without companionship, with only a television and a radio to entertain him. To treat him as a thing destroys him in the same way we would be destroyed in solitary confinement. The solution is to place him and Kiko in sanctuaries with other chimpanzees where they will be safe.

Once a wild nonhuman animal is taken from the wild, placed in captivity and forced to depend on humans for food and shelter, a return to the wild can be very difficult if not deadly. Chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins and whales are social, territorial nonhumans, relying on family and community to exist in their natural habitats.

Without a social structure and community, he or she will have a difficult time surviving, which is particularly threatening for wild nonhuman animals born in captivity. But it is our duty to do right by these animals.

When Tommy and Kiko are finally recognized as legal persons with the fundamental right to bodily liberty, they will be able to live freely at Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce, Florida in an environment as close to chimpanzees’ natural habitat as is possible in North America. With 190 acres, including twelve three-acre islands, it’s the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world, providing a home to 257 chimpanzee residents—all of whom have, in one way or another, suffered at the hands of humans because of their legal thinghood.

Recognition of Tommy’s and Kiko’s rights will mean—for them—a long awaited freedom to live their lives as they choose in an environment that honors their autonomy

The argument itself will mark an important milestone in the evolution of how we view and treat other animals, culturally and legally. These changes are well underway, as we saw most recently in 2016 when an Argentina judge recognized a captive chimpanzee as a “non-human person” based on similar arguments we’ve made in New York courts since 2013.

As the HBO documentary “Unlocking the Cage” makes clear, animals like Tommy and Kiko—undeniably cognitively and emotionally complex—should not live, indeed cannot truly live, in cages. For three decades, I have been fighting for the legal rights of nonhuman rights. Tommy and Kiko have suffered for almost as long. For these beings, and all who share their plight, having their day in court is a victory in itself, though they will never know it. All they will know, in the end, is that they are  free. It’s for us humans—inside and outside courtrooms—to ensure this happens.

Wise is president of the Nonhuman Rights Project.



Environmentalists protest hunting bison plan in Poland

FILE - In this March 16, 2010 file photo bison are pictured at a reserve in the Bialowieza forest, in Bialowieza, eastern Poland. Environmentalists are protesting plans by the authorities to allow hunters to kill 10 bison in the Borecka forest saying the protected animals should be allowed to die of natural causes. Greenpeace had gathered well over 7,000 signatures by Monday afternoon, Jan. 2, 2017, on a letter asking Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to stop the plan. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

Environmentalists are protesting Poland’s plan to allow hunters to shoot bison, while authorities say it is necessary for the well-being of the herd and will earn money for its upkeep.

Greenpeace had gathered well over 7,000 signatures by Monday afternoon on a letter asking Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to stop the plan. They say Europe’s largest mammals, which live in old-growth forests in northeastern Poland, are protected by law and a symbol of Poland’s nature.

Environment authorities have allowed the hunting of 10 bison in the Borecka forest, saying the herd there is too large and threatened with tuberculosis. They say limited hunting allows for a controlled elimination of weak animals, while earning funds to support the others.