Last Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl thousands attended a glittering evening performance of Chinese Splendor – the finale of a two week extravaganza of dance, music and theatre showcasing an array of national art forms from Chinese culture.
But to me right now, the term ‘Chinese Splendor’ feels so tragically wrong. For barely 21 days ago, Yulin – a city in the southern province of Guangxi – celebrated a nightmarish midsummer festival where thousands of dogs were bludgeoned to death and Chinese activists were forced to plead and bargain in the street with traders who laughed as they blackmailed them for high prices – threatening to torture dogs right in front of them.
Respecting culture should never be used as an excuse for cruelty and abuse and like many other advocates (and as CEO of an animal welfare charity) I might expect this glittering showbiz display to make people quickly forget what they had so recently witnessed: the horrifying abuse and death of thousands of beautiful, sentient and loving, living beings – those we refer to as ‘companion animals’.
This 4th July weekend however saw a new and pleasing development: concluding several weeks of unprecedented online outpouring of grief and protest (both within China and internationally) Californian celebrities had rallied a band of activists to stand outside the Hollywood Bowl and say ‘Yes to Chinese Splendor but No to Eating Dog and Cat Meat’. Visiting Chinese dignitaries and artists will have seen from their limos a line-up of protesters – organised by Lori Alan (who plays news anchor Diane Simmons in TV cartoon Family Guy) Fia Perera, Sky Valencia and Shannon Lee – holding placards and banners saying ‘No To Dog Meat’. I pray they will take this story home and that somehow it will help the Chinese authorities find the political will to enact welfare laws for all animals and to end a trade which has no legal status within Chinese society.
LA’s demo chimes well with recent events in the UK. The issue of the dog meat trade has just been tabled as an Early Day Motion in UK Parliament and an online petition to the White House seeks 100,000 signatures to raise the issue in the US government.
A petition however high it climbs will not in itself effect immediate change – though I believe they are a worthwhile way to raise, focus and maintain attention to an issue. Last year I raised 10,000 signatures on an official UK government e-petition about the egregious cruelty in South Korea where dogs and cats are often burned and boiled alive for superstitious reasons. It elicited a lame fobbing off from the foreign office which complacently explained that its hands are tied against such torture there being no internationally recognised animal welfare laws.
Ultimately, real lasting change will need to come from within the countries affected. There are already small signs of hope – in China where historically, popular protest has been – and still is – repressed, the citizen activists who took to the streets of Yulin have already seen a drop in local dog meat consumption of over 30%. Let us hope the many others working hard in countries like South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam soon see similar achievements.
At home for now I am still disappointed that the media tends to ignore the reality – Channel Four currently has a series entitled ‘The World’s Best Diet’ the first episode of which last week ran a long segment on South Korea yet completely failed to mention dog or cat meat.
Over the next few months I will be blogging on how we can all work to influence and effect change for animals. I am greatly encouraged by the emerging awareness of the dog meat issue among celebrities of all countries. Younger generations are hugely influenced by the arts and media and there is arguably nowhere better placed than Hollywood to kick-start a worldwide revolution in public and media thinking.
The NoToDogMeat campaign is led by the UK registered Charity 1154524 World Protection for Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade 17 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PH 0207 873 2250 http://www.notodogmeat.com
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