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May 15, 2011

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Home » Feature » Animal Planet

A brave rescue mission

IT was a Saturday and it was exceptionally hot for this time of year when a team of Shanghai animal protection volunteers hit the road on May 7 for Liuhe Town, Jiangsu Province (about 40 kilometers from downtown Shanghai), to save some dogs destined to be slaughtered at a wet market.

Hui Hui, a 28-year-old devoted stray dog and cat rescue volunteer from JAR, a Shanghai-based animal protection group, initiated the rescue after online and TV reports showed dogs were being butchered at the wet market.

They believed it would be similar to the "dog rescue campaign" in which 520 dogs, tightly packed in cages, were rescued from a truck on a highway near Beijing last month. In that case, volunteers eventually had to purchase the dogs to save them from becoming restaurant meals since there is no specific law in China to prevent strays from being butchered.

"I am trembling now," Hui Hui said when approaching the wet market. "I am not afraid to face the slaughterers but the terrible scene of dog killing scares me ... The poor dogs."

The volunteers checked every corner of the market during a two-hour investigation, but they didn't find any dogs being killed.

Officials from the town's public sanitation watchdog have stopped the butchers from slaughtering dogs openly on the street after Taicang Daily reported the cruel procedure, said one of the workers at a game meat store. The dogs are slaughtered elsewhere, but the meat was still delivered to the stores, the worker said.

His boss was nowhere to be found after angry pet lovers, animal protectors and related department officials phoned him - his number was exposed online without his permission - to protest the public slaughters of dogs.

While dogs are no longer visible in the store, sheep and rabbits can still be seen in small, stinky cages. They will be killed once an order is placed. The store waits for orders before killing the animals. This, the worker said, ensures better quality and taste.

The worker, sneering at the volunteers, said: "We acquired the dogs legally, why don't you keep your eyes on those dog traffickers who stole dogs or poisoned them to death?"

A female worker insisted the dogs were raised by farmers particularly for their meat, but there were no certifications to prove the dog meat was safe to eat.

A middle-aged vegetable vendor described the dog killings she had witnessed.

"They hit the dogs in the head and when they nearly pass out, they stab them," she said, smiling as she described the scene. She said the dogs are no different from the vegetables she sells.

In a place where people have a special appreciation for the taste of dog meat and canines are not protected by laws from being butchered, animal welfare seems like an alien concept.

The dog rescuers, in the end, did manage to save one animal. The volunteers freed a canine chained next to a dusty dry ditch opposite the dog-meat hotpot restaurants after they asked around and no one claimed the dog. They brought the pooch, who is healthy, back to Shanghai and named her Happiness in Chinese.

Volunteers said they would find her a nice home with a responsible owner.


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