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Tradition or Travesty: China’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival – I Say ‘NoToDogMeat’ Hufffpo June 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/julia-de-cadenet-/china-dog-meat-festival_b_5513995.html

How are you celebrating the Summer Solstice? In Yulin, China a feast of 10,000 dogs is planned for this weekend.

As a dog lover I cannot imagine anything worse than my best friend used for food – and the thought of her being beaten, hung, skinned, blowtorched or even boiled alive leaves me frozen and distressed. Imagine then an entire festival devoted to eating dog as part of a trade where such methods are commonplace. This is not a myth created to shock – it’s a fact.

Since the 1990s in the city of Yulin – in a rural part of China, the Southern province of Guangxi – around 10,000 dogs are slaughtered so that they can be eaten on or around June 21st. The meat is served with lychees as a stew.

You may wonder how so many dogs are found – in fact they are shipped in on huge dog trucks in tightly packed cages. Some are from ‘dog farms’ but most are rounded up strays and former pets. I have witnessed entire cages full of dogs being literally thrown to the ground from the tops of trucks several metres high.

Is this culturally acceptable….or even legal? Unfortunately, China has no real animal protection laws – certainly not for the dogs and cats who end up as part of the human food chain – and because the trade is unofficial and black market it is not even subjected to health, trade or food production laws. Culture aside, Chinese consumers have many reasons to think twice.

And as if this were not bad enough, China is not the only country with a dog and cat meat trade. During the hot summer months it is estimated that over 12. 5 million dogs and cats are eaten each year in South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Indonesia – and in nearly every instance, torture is demanded. It is still believed by some that the more suffering a dog endures the more potent or tender is the resulting meat or that if a cat is boiled into a soup or drink it can cure ailments. Many believe dog meat can treat impotency. Governments turn a blind eye and stay silent. The dog meat trade – illegal and unregulated – is lucrative for some who will not be willing to relinquish it and so far there has been no political will to address this.

Thankfully, there is a glimmer of hope: times are changing and so are attitudes. This year’s Yulin festival has become more subdued and secretive having attracted unprecedented opposition amongst activists and celebrities from both inside and outside of China. Social media has played a huge role in spreading information and the gruesome images of suffering animals are now shared far and wide.

The charity World Protection for Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade runs the ‘NoToDogMeat’ campaign. Originating as a lobbying page on Facebook WPDCM works to raise awareness at home and abroad and aims to make a lasting difference to the welfare of animals in those countries affected.

NoToDogMeat campaigners have been outside the Chinese Embassy all week and the BBC petitioning against the Yulin Dog Meat Festival Photo: Brett AllanMany people in the UK and other western countries have not even heard of the dog meat trade. I continue to lobby our own government and the UN for at least an acknowledgement of the existence of the trade. In December last year I spoke at the APGAW annual general meeting on Companion Animals and this week hand delivered a letter for the Chinese prime minister Li who was in London this week. Routinely, Chinese Embassy officials are unresponsive to protest and will rarely open the door for petitions. Recently even a group of Chinese people wishing to pay tribute to the Tiananmen victims were refused.

People often ask how we can make a difference being so far away, but through social media we can all connect with activists and other welfare groups and our collective voice is powerful. Freedom of speech is curtailed in China but here we can speak out, without the same fear of reprisal and this makes a genuine difference for activists abroad.

The sad reality remains for now that with a festival like Yulin even if it is banned publicly the cruelty will still go on behind closed doors.

To find out more about our work please visit http://www.notodogmeat.com You can also find us on facebook http://www.facebook.com/NoToDogMeat and twitter @NoToDogMeat World Protection for Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade registered charity 1154524
17 Cavendish Square London W1G 0PH + 44 207 873 2250

Animals · Asia · Julia de Cadenet · politcal · United Nations

Significant Progress on Asia’s Civil Society/ End to Torture.

On September 8-10, 2014, an Asia Regional Civil Society Experience Summit was held in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Summit brought together more than 96 civil society leaders working in 21 Asian countries and jurisdictions to meet, share experiences, and discuss best practices on how civil society, the international community and governments can build better development partnerships. The Summit was held in response to the Stand with Civil Society agenda that emerged from the roundtable chaired by President Barack Obama and Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson at the United Nations General Assembly of 2013, and was co-convened by The Asia Foundation, Kemitraan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Summit participants acknowledged civil society’s important roles to promote democracy through inclusive and participatory advocacy for all; monitor and evaluate governments’ performance and hold them accountable; provide services to local populations; and educate the public on policies, laws, and rights. Participants also highlighted the leading sectors in which Asian civil society work, which include efforts to strengthen civil society, improve governance and support decentralization, promote and protect human rights, especially for vulnerable and marginalized populations, promote conflict prevention and social cohesion, increase access to justice and strengthen rule of law, and engage media to enhance information dissemination and  access. This statement gives voice to the challenges that Asian civil society encounters as well as actions that civil society, governments, and the international community can jointly undertake to support and empower Asian civil society in achieving above-mentioned efforts Summit participants established the most urgent and important challenges for Asian civil society including:

  •  Lack of understanding and appreciation by many governments of the role of civil society and adherence to a rights-based approach: State actors often lack knowledge and awareness about the role of civil society and are often unappreciative of how CSOs can contribute to service delivery and promote inclusion and participation of the public in determining policies and laws, as well as human rights.
  •  Lack of political will and incentives for change by some state actors: Despite clear evidence of a role for civil society, some state actors remain resistant to change. There is limited or no incentive and accountability structure to motivate change agents.
  •  Restrictive legal and regulatory environment: Some governments have highly restrictive or no mechanism for civil society to form and operate. Freedom of expression, association and assembly are either not respected or observed.
  •  Limited engagement with regional and global partners: CSOs are often isolated and constrained within their country context. Nascent organizations are not aware of similar organizations and/or change agents at the regional or global context. Due to this isolation local civil society organizations are unable to partake in international dialogues, share best practices and lessons learned, and coordinate strategies and mobilization.
  •  Limited use and understanding of innovation and usage of new technologies: Promoting the acceptance and adoption of new innovative approaches that leverage new communication, networking and market-based technology that complement tested traditional approaches in order to promote dialogue and development solutions that benefit all sectors. These efforts are further challenged by the lack of legal, economic and financial policy frameworks that allow the creation of enabling places where governments, private and the academic sectors can partner to empower all citizens in an inclusive, participatory and transparent manner.
  •  Inadequate resources and support: CSO sustainability is threatened by the lack of stable sources of income. Without financial stability, CSOs are limited in their capacity to retain staff, maintain programs and strengthen existing networks and partnerships.

In response to these challenges, participants call on civil society, governments and the international community to act on the following essential issues: 1. Build an enabling environment for civil society: All governments should build an enabling legal, social, and economic environment in which diverse societies can grow and flourish. Human rights defenders should be allowed to work for the vulnerable communities without fear or intimidation. Civil society and the international community should engage and demonstrate to regional, national and local governments the vital role of civil society, build safe meaningful and inclusive mechanisms through which civil society can engage state actors. 2. Promote innovative partnerships with diverse actors and change agents: All governments should recognize and engage civil society as a trusted development partner. Modalities of engagement should be revised and broadened to be inclusive of the whole diverse range of civil society as well as other actors such as the private sector. 3. Leverage information and communication technologies to build and strengthen local and regional networks: Civil society and the international community can utilize online and telecommunication technologies to strengthen coordination and build virtual communities of practice to share information, data, best practices, lessons learned, and contribute each organization’s strength to the community as a whole. Importantly the virtual communities can serve as a communication nexus where civil society will further engage academic institutions, think tanks, and the international community on policy and strategic discourse. 4. Explore innovative means to provide technical, institutional, and financial support to civil society: The international community should improve donor coordination and explore novel approaches to support the development of civil society, including local CSOs and subnational, national and regional CSO networks, which play an important role in strengthening civil society. Sustainability of CSOs can be improved by promoting combined donor granting, philanthropy, and social business income generating models. 5. Build and strengthen civil society transparency, accountability and effective governance: The participants commit to build and strengthen initiatives to strengthen transparency, accountability and effective governance within the sector, especially through self-regulatory mechanisms such as Code of Conduct, self-assessment and certification systems. Governments and the international community should support these efforts. This is a strong call to action from civil society Summit participants to Asian civil society, Asian governments and the international community to further empower civil society and enable them to fulfill their vital role in sustaining democratic and peaceful societies, protection of rights, and provision of services. Civil society participants acknowledge and appreciate the panel of world leaders who helped launch the Stand with Civil Society agenda on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly 2013. We call upon the donors, governments, and international community to ensure continued financial and political commitment to civil society, particularly in closing and closed environments

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