Some dogs die from their ordeal, but more than 80% are saved
GUANGZHOU, China––The hardest part of rescuing a truckload of suspected stolen dogs en route to slaughter in Guangzhou, China on June 19, 2017 had only just began when the cages of dogs were unloaded.
The cargo, initially believed to be about 800 dogs, turned out to be more than 1,320, crammed so tightly into the cages that they could barely move.
Dehydrated from the 72-hour journey that brought them from Longnan in southern Gansu province, nearly 1,200 miles away, many of the dogs were close to death even before reaching the truckers’ intended destination, a dog meat slaughterhouse in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province.
As of June 28, 2017, reported Humane Society International representative Peter Li, at least 236 dogs had died, but 195 had recovered sufficiently to be relayed to the Henan Small Animal Protection Association shelter, approximately 1,000 miles to the north. Another 175 dogs went to two shelters in nearby Shenzen city. Seven other shelters and fostering organizations took from three to 50 dogs each.
Veterinary hospitals were looking after 106 dogs, while 384 dogs remained in the care and custody of the rescue team.
Soi Dog Foundation assists
“Vets and volunteers from around the world came to assist the dogs,” blogged the Soi Dog Foundation in a supporting post, “including Soi Dog’s partner on the ground, No Dogs Left Behind,” headed by California rescuer Jeffrey Beri.
Originating in 2002 as a spay/neuter service provider in Phuket, Thailand, the Soi Dog Foundation became the global leader in rescuing dogs from the meat trade after offering in 2011 to accommodate as many dogs as Thai authorities could confiscate from traffickers.
Until then, Thai dog meat traffickers had violated laws meant to stop the export of dogs to slaughter in Vietnam with near impunity, because Thai police and customs agencies had nowhere to house confiscated dogs and no budget for looking after them.
Success in Southeast Asia
Three years after that, in 2014, the Soi Dog Foundation, Humane Society International, Animals Asia Foundation, and Change for Animals Foundation brokered a five-year moratorium on dog trafficking among Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
In recent years the Soi Dog Foundation has provided logistic help to Chinese activists who began intercepting cargoes of cats being sent to slaughter in 2008. The rescue efforts expanded to dog rescue in April 2011, stopping trucks and seizing dogs by invoking existing legislation requiring proof of anti-rabies vaccination for any dogs being transported across provincial borders.
Under online attack
All of this has made the Soi Dog Foundation, Peter Li, and their many Chinese allies constant targets of disparagement on social media, orchestrated by erstwhile “animal advocates” whose activities chiefly serve the interests of the dog meat industry.
Examples include unsubstantiated allegations of covert deals among the rescue organizations and dog meat traffickers; postings boosting the activities and approaches of upstart “anti-dog meat” organizations that buy dogs from traffickers for inflated prices, thereby putting more money into the trade; and allegations that rescued dogs are dying of neglect, which are true, but only because the dogs were neglected by the traffickers to the brink of death before being rescued.
A further category of attack usually bypasses direct mention of Soi Dog, Li, and other rescuers of longtime involvement and good reputation, and instead attacks all Chinese (and sometimes Korean or any Asian people) in racist terms seeming calculated to generate suspicion of the motives of opponents of the dog meat trade among Chinese people (or Korean or any Asian people) who become aware of the postings.
ANIMALS 24-7 has identified at least two such disparagers, using a variety of screen names, who bring to the dog meat issue substantial criminal history and verifiable involvement in animal issues of less than five years.
The online disparagement may have contributed to the deaths of dogs, by helping to incite villagers against the rescuers.
Mob attack on rescue effort
“The situation became even more desperate,” recounted Soi Dog, “when locals in the area [where the rescued dogs were bivouacked] became angry about the dogs being in their village. They shut down the power and water and stormed the shelter, where an altercation broke out between them and the rescuers.
“The police ordered that the dogs be removed. The rescuers found a second location to house the dogs and moved a group of approximately 500 dogs to a new location.
“That night, the new location was stormed by villagers who began killing dogs. The activists fought back and removed the dogs as quickly as possible to yet a third location.
Dogs removed under heavy security
“On June 25,” Soi Dog continued, “all the dogs who remained at the original location were evacuated by No Dogs Left Behind. Private security was hired and the location was locked down. The dogs were prepared for transport and loaded into two large trucks. Security personnel were stationed in each truck, with additional security and volunteers following the trucks in a van.
“The convoy took approximately 18 hours to reach the Henan shelter, where the team unloaded the dogs. Sadly, one dog died in transit. Twelve others were immediately transferred to a local animal hospital. Healthy and vaccinated dogs were separated by gender, released from the trucks, and brought into the shelter. Those sick with parvo virus or distemper were quarantined.”
Hub of both dog meat trade and animal advocacy
Guangzhou, the Guangdong capital city, where the 1,320 dogs were rescued, has for more than 700 years the hub of the dog and cat meat trade, documented by Marco Polo circa 1350.
Yet Guangzhou has also been a longtime hub of animal advocacy, before World War II hosting both a western-style humane society affiliated with the Royal SPCA of Great Britain and an older Buddhist-run dog sanctuary.
Though neither institution survived the war, and none of their key personnel are known to have survived, either, the beliefs that sustained them live on.
Recent surveys show that about 28% of Guangdong residents have eaten dog meat at least once in their lives––but about 72% have not. Many of those who have eaten dog meat once would not again do so.
Altogether, hundreds of Chinese people, most of them from Guangdong, contributed to facilitating the June 19, 2017 rescue. Thousands have helped to facilitate the dozens of similar rescues conducted since 2008.
Most such rescue begin with vigilant motorists, who identify the trucks covertly hauling cages of dogs (or cats), usually hidden beneath tarpaulins, use social media to enlist help in following the trucks, and eventually arrange for other activists with cars to assist in surrounding the trucks, forcing them to stop.
Distinguishing a truck illegally hauling dogs from a truck legally hauling pigs, chickens, building materials, or furniture in itself may require the cooperation of dozens of volunteers. (To understand why, try identifying livestock haulers on any U.S. freeway. Then imagine how difficult it would be if the loads were disguised.)
Why the dog meat industry is desperate
Neither the U.S. nor Europe has ever seen spontaneous direct action animal advocacy as effective or well-coordinated across thousands of miles as the Chinese volunteer efforts against the dog meat trade.
Which is why covert operatives may be hell-bent on trying to disrupt and discredit the participants.