Hollywood Celebrities Agree: Nothing ‘Splendid’ About the Dog Meat Trade Huffpo Blog July 2014

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

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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