Chinese Animal Cruelty: Reality or Illusion?

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A mountain seller’s stall in the Jade Village of Southern China’s Yunan.

Grey cauldron-like containers churn and bubble tempestuously, the waft of freshly stewed dog meat wades through nose hairs, goats bleat wildly before restaurants, beheaded crabs are flung onto their still live counterparts as skewered rats and squirrels plunge before one’s eyes. From cockroaches to sheep’s brain served straight from the skull – as if having fallen into the inner workings of a butcher’s twisted kaleidoscope – to the wandering westerner, many Chinese delicacies seem somewhat alien and ill-favoured.

Indeed, with pregnant mink and foxes beaten and skinned alive, 100 tons of fish lying dead in the rivers of Guangxi province and approximately 100,000 dogs killed during the annual ‘Lychee Dog Meat festival’ in Yulin, this culture seems fathomless and unmerciful. Yet perceptions alter as culture ripples across the oceans, the patterns of man evolve undetectably from land to land. Whilst in the west the dog is heralded as ‘a gentleman’, in the east he is conceived as a lowly despicable creature, for as the Chinese proverb goes ‘How can you expect to find ivory in a dog’s mouth?’ (狗嘴里吐不出象牙), to kill a dog therefore is no worse than to kill a hog- of which the British slaughter more than 8 million each year.

What makes a dog nobler than a chicken? Why is a cat purer in soul than a cow? Do we unwittingly save only those pleasing to the human eye? Is a cannibal more comprehensible if he eats only the ugly? Perhaps the absolutist eyes of a foreigner are blinded to the cruelty of his own culture, perhaps it is man we ought look down on with disdain, rather than channelling our contempt onto a nation, for be it the puffins in sauce of Icelandic cuisine, the British and their bacon or the Kujira Tataki (whale meat) of the Japanese, each nation is culpable in its own unique way – the only race at fault is the human race.

 Is an animal’s destiny tied to its tongue? Had a learned puffin perfected Icelandic or a linguistic pig mastered English, would they have escaped the dinner plate? Why does the reasoning human continue to trend towards behaviour so inhumane and unreasonable in terms of animal treatment? With his lofty claim to superiority to the animal kingdom as the only reasoning animal, why then does man not reason far enough to cast aside the conventional food chain? The human is nature’s greatest predator- are our carnivorous tendencies rather one of our most natural basic human instincts? Is a world without meat physically possible and truly desirable, or a dystopia of human malnourishment and animal overabundance due to food chain imbalances?

As the largest producer of fur in the world, should more be done to hinder the Chinese in their efforts in the domain of animal slaughter? Why are animals treated with so little mercy in Asian countries? Has Asian animal mistreatment been unfairly distorted by Western media, exacerbating racial tension between nations and cultures?

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Xiao Huang was chained to his owners’ garden for 10 years leaving him to grow violent, aggressive and too wild for human interaction. Given the danger to the family’s young children, Xiao Huang needed to be disposed of- popular options in China include selling dogs to local restaurants or abandoning them in rural areas. After the relatives had eventually vetoed the restaurant option, Xiao Huang was to be taken to roam the streets of another village, yet removing him from a home he had not left in 10 years proved to be quite a feat. Eventually he was attached to an electric scooter on a lead, but despite moving inextricably forward, so intent was he on looking back on the home he had not once left since he was a puppy, that his leg became injured during the journey. He was tied up and fed his last meal from the family before being abandoned in an area far enough from his former home that he would be unable to return.

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One pampered dog revels lazily in the sunshine on the doorstep of his owner’s handmade-scarf shop.

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It’s not all abattoirs and animal oppression – another fine day of taking in the mountainous scenery, eating grass and mulling over the philosophy of existence comes to a close for local cows in the town of Baisha who are accompanied on their daily journey home by their local farmer.

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Whilst cows in the south plod on into the sunset, far off on the other side of China’s vast land surface in northern Tianjin, as always, mountain goats rush downhill with glee as their farmer walks serenely in their wake.

Some pigs and their farmer in Transit across the Dragon Rice Terraces of Guangxi.

Some pigs and their farmer in Transit across the Dragon Rice Terraces of Guangxi.

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A beekeeper near Panshan mountain cares serenely for his miniature honey makers in the sun.

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Bird cages hang from the trees of parks around the cities on Sunday mornings as pensioners gather for weekly reunions- keeping birds in ornate bamboo cages is a common pastime in China for the retired, for whom small birds are a much sought after companion to loneliness.

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A squirrell sold as a snack by a hillside stall seller is bought and set free into the wilderness by a visiting buddhist wandering the mountains.

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A lady awaits at the bus stop with her shopping purchases in hand as she begins preparations from the most important meal of the year – Chinese New Year dinner.

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Don’t possess your own transport? Take your dinner home live and kicking on your local bus instead.

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China’s thriving meat industry continues to provide millions of jobs each year and many believe has given Chinese cuisine its global culinary supremacy.

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From chicken feet to duck brain, Chinese delicacies are served up in style by successful cuisiniers passing from town to town.

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40 thoughts on “Chinese Animal Cruelty: Reality or Illusion?

  1. There’s also video on YouTube ( if someone didn’t remove because many downvoits) I heard rabbit screaming first time in my life. Worst thing is that I feel imposibble to help.

    • I couldn`t watch it but you are referring to Angora rabbits who are plucked in China and suffer great agony, for their fur, it`s horrific. You CAN do something. Contact PETA and sign their petition to have this practice outlawed. Much love to you. xx

      • Yes, Angora rabbits. I signed “million” times, actually, their words were “we feel helpless”, that’s China, like you are talking to a wall. They are impossible to talk to, what else can we do to make them stop? It would be really great.

          • Well, you could start by reading what Nathan Winograd has to say. See http://www.nathanwinograd.com/ and search for PETA. You may also be dismayed by what he says about HSUS. Winograd is a pretty intense animal rights activist, so I’m sure his opinions are biased … but after reading what he said I did further research via Google and other sources bear him out. Plus, even if you don’t agree with everything he says, he’s not a whack-job – he’s knowledgeable, highly committed, and widely well-regarded. Bottom line, PETA is a huge and ugly lie. They actively oppose the very concept of “pet ownership”, and will euthanase young, healthy animals rather than seek adopters for them.

  2. It’s true in the West we have become very picky about which animals we eat but at the end of the day we are eating animals. We seem to think it is better to rear animals purely for the purpose of slaughter to become our food than to let them run wild and kill them for food if we can. We satisfy ourselves that free range animals have a good life before they are slaughtered and it makes us so much more civilised.

    Even if we think of the UK and its consumption of offal for instance, many younger generation would not touch brains, tripe, liver, hearts, kidneys, ox tongue, ox tail, things which were staples in the last generation. It’s not only ‘nice’ or ‘acceptable’ animals we eat, we only eat the ‘nice’ or ‘acceptable’ parts of those animals.

    I know it’s off topic but still related, I think the same of performing animals. We are fast to condemn a Russian dancing bear or a performing monkey and yet dancing horses are part of the Olympic games and we marvel at performing dogs in talent shows. The world is full of hypocrisy and the more we travel the more we realise not only that but also how narrow minded we are.

  3. This is article is brilliant, so eye opening! Did you visit China yourself and see what was going on first hand!?

    • Hiya Lucelastic! Yes, I spent a year there last year, these are all photos that I have taken and the story of Xiao Huang is one I witnessed. Although much animal cruelty occurs in China and many still view animals as far inferior to the human race, I think we shouldn’t judge our own nationals as saints simply because they do not ravenously devour the hands or heads of their prey – at least the Chinese are honest about what is on their dinner plates. Shaping meat into portions that resemble less like the animal they came from does not lessen the crime, it simply continues the lie to ourselves.

  4. What makes a dog nobler than a chicken? Why is a cat purer in soul than a cow? Do we unwittingly save only those pleasing to the human eye?- My answer would be that we should stop altogether.

  5. Interesting post and great photos, if somewhat confronting. Surely the issue of is humanity – treating animals well and creating a quick death, rather than bunging them in a bag…

    • I agree. Although … being carried home in a bag might not be such a terrible way to go. The duck in the picture looks quite contented! On the other hand, look at what happens to cattle in the US: chivvied into an overcrowded truck and made to spend several weeks eating poop and hormones at a feedlot, then taken to an abattoir, with all the horrific smells of blood, and death quite often neither fast nor humane. How can that possibly be ok?

  6. Great post

    .” Why are animals treated with so little mercy in Asian countries? Has Asian animal mistreatment been unfairly distorted Western media, exacerbating racial tension between nations and cultures? Is a world without meat physically possible and truly desirable, or a dystopia of human malnourishment and animal overabundance due to food chain imbalances?”

    You ask some good questions. I’m not sure if Asian animal mistreamtment has been distorted by the media, but certainly we don’t need to look as far away as China to see horrific examples of animal cruelty. From puppy farms to battery chooks to greyhounds bred for racing and put down in their thousands when they don’t win, we have plenty of examples of animal cruelty in our own backyards.

  7. So true is the fact that we in the west are in no position to judge those in the east for killing and eating dog when we kill and eat also, just happens that different animals are on the menu!

  8. Thanks for the great post. Though upsetting to me (I am a vegetarian), I try not to look down on others’ customs and food choices…it would be hard for me to visit such places without becoming distressed, however. Animal cruelty and neglect is, unfortunately, a world-wide problem and one that will probably exist until human beings themselves are extinct. Thank you, also, for following my blog :)

  9. There is a long history of European cultures labeling the food preferences of other cultures as “barbaric” in some cases even confusing them with cannibalism when it comes to bush meat. However I don’t think we should look at these situation as just cultural, with some kind of moral relativity that makes what they are doing ethical because our culture has the same or similar practice. We look at genocide or women being raped and beaten as morally unjustifiable regardless of culture and should look at animal use in the same light.

  10. “Perhaps a man hitched to the cart of a Martian or roasted on the spit by inhabitants of the Milky Way will recall the veal cutlet he used to slice on his dinner plate and apologize (belatedly!) to the cow.” – from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

  11. You’re amazingly intelligent and compassionate; thank you for being here and thank you for following and liking my article. (I’m following you now, of course!) Wow, this is an eye-opener here. I’ve heard one traveler describe some Vietnamese dog killers as saying of the screaming dogs, “They’re the same as potatoes,” followed by loud, wretched laughter. Something’s extremely wrong in this world, and being vegan and promoting it seems one good way to work at the great changes needed. Much respect to you, Rachel
    ~ Laura

  12. Great post; the Chinese people’s relationship with animLs is so strange! I live in a relatively rich part of china so owning a dog is the new thing, they spend lots on grooming and outfits! Great blog btw

  13. Thank you for a lovely post, and thank you too for visiting my blog. The Bible says a Godly man is merciful even to animals; in other words, kill them or not, but still he will be humane to them. Chinese cruelty to animals is just a tiny microcosm of the evil embodied in human nature, human nature without God.

  14. Hey Rachel!
    As a veggie and big animal lover and activist I really wish I hadn’t read this. I am fully aware of stuff like this going on (and do as much as I can to influence that to whatever point I can). Still, stories like the one about poor Xiao Huang (or raw facts & pictures like some of those above) never fail to make me sick to my stomach :( What you say is frundamentally true, though – and I will most definitely agree with you: “the only race at fault here is the human race”!

  15. You have raised Very Valid questions, and have written them Very Well. Kudos. As for Solutions, it will take decades if not centuries before Man will Wake Up, I would say.

  16. Thank you! One of the issues that are harder to handle on the way is explaining people that cruelty cannot be accepted as “culture”. I come from a place where parties revolve around killing and mistreating animals, and from one society to the next meet the recognition and justification of suppering. May all cruelty end!!!

  17. This is a complex issue that you have rasied. Animal cruelty is pervasive and often sanctioned as “culural”. This is something I have discussed in my latest post if you are interested.

    http://emynow.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/s-a-elections-done-and-dusted-so-whats-changed/

    As you know, NO fur farming is humane but there is something particularly despicable about skinning an animal while he/she is still alive. This is probably not unique to China and I certainly judge all animal cruelty regardless of the country.

  18. Through all the hypocrisy that surrounds this issue the case is made in one word: mercy. If we have to eat certain animals, whether the survival argument stands up or not, we should at least give them the dignity we would give to an equal in death. Disrespect is something which I suspect will not be forgiven, and many a Christian called to stand before the gates of his heaven will be greeted by those he has eaten in his life. To treat those who share our planet as so much trash is a sure ticket to a lower place.

  19. Opened my eyes….I don’t know much about treatment of animals in many places around the earth, but I have a deep feeling of hate (strong, I know) towards treatment of wild animals, especially for entertainment/profit. I do eat meat (not pork), I buy organic and or local, I love my dogs but I hate zoos and circuses. If I actually looked into how everything I eat is processed…I’d probably be thin from not eating anything. I live in the city and I can’t be totally organic like my mother in Oregon (she raises her meat, eats her own edible foods from her garden), but I try. I even have vintage furs in my closet, leather handbags, and other hypocritical items I possess. I even trained my dogs to hand shake but I won’t chain or kennel them. Americans are funny…we have such loud vocals but we hide so much more. I’m not in denial. I just cry a lot about anything I see or read that involves living beings that can’t voice their pain. Helpless beings…I’ll be a vegetarian one day…it’s just that chicken breasts and an occasional steak are so yummy :( anyway….I’ll read another of your blogs tomorrow :) great write up!! chow lady. -Nik

  20. Very eye-opening post. Your questions are valid and I have often asked myself these. I was once a vegan but got so sick that I had to make a change. As soon as I switched back to grass-fed meat and wild-caught fish, my health took a 180-degree turn (I am Type O and Type O’s would only thrive on animal protein and lots of veggies). There is a book called “The Yoga of Eating” by Charles Einstein, which deals with the moral dilemmas of eating meat. I highly recommend this book. Basically I think the issue of cruelty stems from the industrialization process of food production. There is an inherent disconnect between human beings and animals. If you look into the hunting cultures, some of which are still very much alive today, human’s relationship with their preys are very different and take on a spiritual nature. I have once listened to a lecture by an Inuit from Greenland. He told us how the hunter would have a “dialogue” with the spirit of the animal he’s going to hunt–in the case of Inuitis, it’s often polar bears and seals. There is respect and understanding of the nature of the “food chain.” I have heard in the Native American culture, that even when people pluck vegetables from the ground they would ask for permission from Mother Earth first. In fact, I have read studies about plants and how they have feelings too. So the argument against eating animals is invalid as vegetarians would be hurting plants’ feelings too, if they go with the same logic. Anyway, I’ve been rambling here. This is such an interesting subject, and I’m glad you brought it up for discussion. Really great photos, Rachel! Thanks for sharing!

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