Dog lovers in China say they plan to join efforts to boycott the 2019 World Dog Show in Shanghai and endorse a global petition to say “No” to the city’s plan to host it unless the government ends a controversial annual dog-meat festival in southern Guangxi province.
An online petition on Care2.com, a social networking and activism site, has garnered nearly 590,000 supporters worldwide. It demands the show’s Belgium-based organizer, Fédération Cynologique Internationale, revoke its decision and move the world’s most important dog show “to another country with a more humane view on animal welfare until China stops this horrible tradition.”
In support of the boycott, the Capital Animal Welfare Association in Beijing said it is considering mobilizing Chinese animal rights activists to initiate a local campaign against the dog show and the practice of eating dogs.
Association director Li Wei said given China’s lack of an animal protection laws and unhealthy attitudes about pets, there is concern the show, despite its well-intended promotion of animal welfare, may end up triggering fads for popular dog breeds.
FILE - A colored dog sits on a table at the Pet Fair Asia 2014 in Shanghai on Aug. 23, 2014.
“The show will bring all kinds of purebred dogs to Shanghai, intriguing the public’s curiosity, interests and desire to buy bred dogs. That may once again hike up the nation’s trade and undertaking of dog breeding,” said Li.
That would add to the country’s woe of abandoned dogs when people find they can't properly care for cuddly puppies, Li said.
Li said Chinese activists have been preoccupied with their protest against the annual dog meat eating festival in Yulin. But now they will turn their attention to the dog show, where 10,000 dogs are expected to compete.
Although millions of Chinese have called to end the dog-meat festival, where up to 10,000 dogs are slaughtered each year, Chinese authorities haven't been able to curb the custom, Li said.
Public reaction to the dog-meat festival and the dog show has been mixed.
Online on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, some described dog-eaters as a national disgrace, while many others felt the boycott was biased.
FILE: A vendor smokes behind a display of dog meat at a dog meat market on the day of a local dog meat festival in Yulin, Guangxi Autonomous Region, June 22, 2015.
One Weibo user wrote, “Why should we listen to you? Where were you when Japan is whaling in Norway?” While another commented, “It’s interesting that steak-eaters are looking down on dog-eaters. The bullfighting in Europe has taken the notion of barbarism to a whole new level.”
Many people think authorities need to communicate more with the public to change people’s attitudes both toward the practice of eating dog meat and the care of pets.
Wang is an animal lover in her 30s, who owns a small pet store in Beijing. She said views on both sides are so divided that only time and education will change attitudes.
She said the boycott is unlikely to change the way some people think, but hosting a dog show could.
When people see animals that are “groomed to look so cute and clean, no one would have the heart to slaughter off such cute little things,” Wang said. “But if they look as dirty as those stray dogs on the street, some people will just continue to look at them as a just piece of meat.”
She said as having pets has become more common, attitudes are being changed.
“Now you can get them well trained so they aren't romping around. When I am walking the dog will stay at my side. Without these developments over time, and the establishment of schools and support groups [to increase understanding of animals] nothing will change," Wang said.
Piece of meat
One dog owner named Dai said before he got his dog Nini 10 years ago he would eat dog meat. Now, he doesn't, and he is opposed to any cruelty against animals.
“There is still a small group of people, particularly those in the south, who still keep the dog-eating tradition,” Dai said. "... The show will offer China an opportunity for change and gradually people will accept and stop the practice."
But while Dai insisted many people in the north do not eat dogs, a quick online search of restaurants in Beijing turned up more than 100 selling dog-meat delicacies.
Many of the online comments below the featured restaurants urged potential customers to not eat dog meat.
One declared “dogs are our best friends.” Another warned “if you eat dog meat, your fate in the next life will be even worse than the dog you’ve killed.”
FILE - A stray dog rests next to makeshift food sinks at Li Zongwen's house on the outskirts of Wuhan, Hubei province, China, March 26, 2011.
Urban animal management
Peter Li, associate professor of East Asian politics at the University of Houston-Downtown in the United States, said for an international campaign to succeed, a homegrown campaign has to pave the way.
Li, who also is a China policy adviser with the Humane Society International, said the two key cities where local groups will need to exert the most pressure to get people to stop eating dogs are Yulin and Jilin province’s Yanji, which is not far from the Korean border.
The ultimate goal, the professor added, isn’t about calling off the Shanghai dog show, but getting Chinese authorities to commit to better animal treatment.
“The purpose should have been, Shanghai authorities say, ‘I’m going to host the show, but at the same time, I’m going to improve urban animal management. I’m going to improve government shelters,” he said.
As a major hub for the sale of cat meat, Shanghai should also be pressured into stopping that trade, the professor added.
While Norway and Britain’s Kennel Clubs have strongly condemned the Yulin dog meat festival and threatened not to attend the 2019 show in Shanghai, some find such moves too radical.
“To target a dog show and to try and overturn a democratic vote by an organization that’s promoting dog welfare and concerns about animal welfare in China, I think it will be a retrograde step,” argued Sean Delmar, president of the Irish Kennel Club.
Delmar said that harshly criticizing Chinese authorities will only give them sense of being besieged, which he says won’t help bring change.
On the contrary, he said, the dog show in 2019 will present a great opportunity to influence Chinese society, because the government it will not want to be embarrassed when the world comes to Shanghai.