By ELLIE PARKER:
Six puppies are crammed in a box, scrambling so their skulls aren’t crushed against the wooden walls. Howling for food, their stomachs rumble. They have not been fed for several days. As the box is opened, they wince out in pain, their eyes slowly adjusting to the sunlight they are suddenly exposed to. These puppies are on death row via the dog meat industry in China and puppy farming in Australia.
‘Puppy love’ is a phrase that is known across the world. It conjures images of teen couples passing notes in the school hallway and gorgeous dogs frolicking through sunflower fields. This colloquialism is appealing because of the word ‘puppy’. Not only has the world come to love the sweet little creatures themselves, but, let’s face it – they love the word ‘puppy’.
Perhaps it is this image of softness, coupled with the sweetness of a word they love, that has served to mask one of society’s most disgusting realities – dog abuse.
Eastern countries are synonymous for animal abuse, where horror stories of tortured animals are released daily. When animal abuse, in particular the mistreatment of dogs, is mentioned in Australia, associations like RSPCA and WIRES are brought up in a debate, and after some brief blustering the conversation ends – but the problem does not.
In China, the main reason animal abuse occurs is due to lack of education. In Chinese culture, dogs aren’t regarded as loveable pets, but rather see them as pests on the streets, much in the same way that Australians view minor birds. Dogs are seen as a source of food in some parts of China, where eating dog meat is celebrated in events such as the annual Yulin Food Festival. Currently, there are no laws in China that have been implemented to protect these poor creatures in their fight for safety.
Australia is the complete opposite, where dogs are seen as loveable pets and many regulations have been established to prevent instances of animal abuse. Organisations like the RSPCA and WIRES exist, to ensure Australian animals are protected from abuse. Despite these laws, there are hidden stories of cruelty towards dogs of which the general public will never become aware.
Puppy Mills. A term only 57% of Australians have heard of, according to an AusPol’s ‘Attitudes to Puppy Farming’ article. Sure, Australia farms sheep, pigs and cattle… but dogs? Never. Sadly this is not the case, with puppy farms still a very relevant issue in Australian society. A puppy farm is an intensive breeding facility that is operated under inadequate or substandard conditions that fail to meet the dog’s behavioural, social and psychological needs.
Jill Robinson, founder of Animals Asia, condemned the barbaric institutions, calling puppy farms “a profit driven industry that sees bitches bred like machines, until they are thoroughly worn out”.
Just as Australia is guilty of farming dogs, provinces in China are guilty of torturing and devouring the poor creatures. The dog meat industry in China is still a terrible issue that haunts many parts of China today. Ms. Robinson says the dogs are caged en masse, with anything up to eight dogs packed into a single tiny cage. They are transported on long journeys to far-flung regions of the country for days at a time, without access to food or water.
This is just the beginning of the abuse these poor dogs face though, with the slaughter process leaving a hellish imprint on China’s standards for dog abuse. Carrot Chen is the Animals Asia China Cat and Dog Welfare Manager, and has seen the violent abuse the dogs are faced with personally. She claims that the dogs face “violent deaths, as they are either bludgeoned over the head, stabbed in the neck or groin to bleed out, hanged, electrocuted or thrown conscious into vats of boiling water”.
Is a swift death better than a life of solitary confinement? Dogs in Australia face a life spent behind bars, rotting in their own feces and never seeing the light of day. Where is the line drawn? Mrs. Sally Nagel, a Labrador breeder, says she places strict restrictions on how frequently her dogs produce litters.
“I would not be happy to make a dog have more than 2 litters in their life as it really takes a lot out of them.” Mrs Nagel is a registered breeder, and says that problems arise in dog breeding as non-registered breeders don’t have to comply by any rules.
Dr. Jo Righetti, renowned animal behaviour consultant, acknowledges that there are the good, the bad, and the outright cruel dog breeders. “If the dogs are kept in good conditions, with adequate veterinary care and their needs are met, both physiological and behavioural, then the dogs should, in theory, be healthy”.
However, Dr. Righetti also acknowledges that dogs need more than this… they need love and attention. She poses the question –“Can you give adequate human contact, a necessary part of their socialisation process?” The answer, of course, is no.
Mrs. Nagel agrees, saying “I make sure when I have a litter that I am very attentive. I will not leave the mother during the birth until all the puppies are born, even if this means the whole night!” This is in stark contrast with what would happen in a puppy farm. The bitches would be left in the cage to give birth by themselves in the dark, left in extreme pain and minimal energy to feed the pups.
A dog meat festival. Yes, the Yulin dog meat festival in the Guangxi province still exists in today’s modern society. Residents consider it an ancient summer tradition, which involves the mass consumption of dog meat hotpot served with lychees and strong grain liquor. Approximately 10,000 dogs are slaughtered during the festival each year, with dogs electrocuted, burned and skinned alive. Graphic pictures have been posted online that show dogs hanging from meat hooks and piles of dog corpses lining the roads. Ms. Chen spoke out against the organisers of the festival, claiming that tradition did not excuse the barbaric practice. ”Although this kind of eating habit exist in China’s history in some areas, it doesn’t mean we should take it as ‘culture’ and respect and develop it”. Just because something is culture does not mean it is right, with many inhumane traditions such as foot-binding and slavery already being demolished.
The link? Australia could be one of the contributors to the dog meat industry in China. Commercial breeders in Australia are free to use the Internet to sell dogs overseas with no requirements to de-sex or microchip them first – meaning they cannot be traced once they leave Australian shores. RSPCA manager of animal services, Allie Jalbert, told the Herald Sun about the horrors these dogs face when they are shipped to China. “Most [dogs] are sourced from local puppy farms where there are mass breeding facilities and puppies are cranked out for profit. They are a battery farm for puppies and the facilities are poor to mediocre and ‘debarking’ often happens to control noise”. Could Australia be partially responsible for the malicious dog meat industry in China?
There are currently NO laws in place in China to protect dogs. Sadly, there are laws in place that actually encourage cruelty towards dogs. Jane Wharton, reporter for the Express, recently reported on the killing of two wild dogs in North China. “Two dogs are beaten to death by a laughing mob in the street – including twenty policeman and forty security guards – simply because they strayed into the wrong area”. In China, it currently stands that certain ‘big’ dogs are deemed as dangerous; including Dalmatians, Tibetan mastiffs, German Shepherds and Pit Bulls.
The two dogs were farm dogs from an outside province, and accidentally wandered into the city. They were then stalked by the mob, with people throwing stones and bricks at the dogs and repeatedly striking them with shovels and bats. Eventually, the two dogs were killed by a policeman who shot them each six times. Did the dogs hurt anyone? No. Did they threaten anyone’s safety? No. These were two completely innocent dogs that were shot in cold blood after suffering a vicious and unprovoked beating. Paul Littlefair, Head of the International (what?) at the RSPCA, says that though the issue is horrible, it is showing a positive change for dogs across China. “While it is very distressing to see these things still happening at all, the crucial difference with this case is that is has been picked up by the Chinese media and is being talked about as unacceptable within China”.
Unlike China, Australia actually has numerous laws in place to protect the welfare and treatment of dogs around the country. Dr. Righetti agrees that there are laws in place to protect dogs. “If the owners are staying within the legal parameters (like POCTA or Codes of Practice, State laws), it is difficult to say that they are doing anything wrong.”
However, Dr. Righetti also points out that these laws do not always have the best interests of the dogs in mind. She highlights that laws do not necessarily look at the emotional health of the animal. The problem for puppy farms lies in non-registered large-scale breeders. Mrs. Nagel, Labrador breeder, warns to look out for these breeders. “The [dog] mothers have to be hip and elbow scored, which shows the problems with a breed. If a breeder says these don’t matter and have no paper work, puppies should not be purchased. It is a crucial part of good breeding.”
The RSPCA has been campaigning to end puppy farming for decades, and in December 2013, came to an agreement with the Coalition government for a final code in regards to puppy farming. Though they are campaigning for puppy farming to end, the code is a step in the right direction. The new Victorian puppy farming code means that:
- Wire floors are now prohibited;
- Euthanasia by blunt force trauma is prohibited (but euthanasia by firearm remains legal);
- Following an emergency euthanasia, a vet must provide written evidence that this was required and permitted;
- Requirement for temperature regulation has improved;
- Breeding dogs could have no more than five litters; and
- A vet check must be carried out pre-breeding and post-birthing.
Sadly, at the last minute, the Victorian government amended the code that originally restricted the amounts of litters a bitch could have. In the original drafted code, it was ruled that a bitch could only give birth to five litters. On the day the code was released, the government amended this rule to say that as long as the dog was seen by a vet and deemed healthy, they could [in theory] continue to have as many litters as required. The RSPCA was outraged by this statement, and issued their own response saying “These last-minute changes give a green light to puppy factories; with the rogue dog breeding practices the Government promised to stamp out now legalised and enshrined in the new Code.”
The Australian laws do not work. More than 100,000 dogs a year are euthanised….that’s 273 dogs a day being killed for no reason. Puppy farms are pumping out more dogs than Australia can cope with, and the result is the slaughter of thousands of dogs every year. The term ‘registered’ breeders in Australia is a duplicitous term – who are they registered with, what does this mean, and are there different types of registered breeders? Some breeders are registered through the state, some through their local council and some through pure-breed dog organisations. Though these organisations have a code of ethics which members are meant to follow, this does not guarantee compliance. These organisations are meant to have members that regularly inspect these dog breeders to see if the dogs are over-crowded or are being raised in poor conditions. This is not the case. Inspections often only occur when there is a complaint, which is very difficult for people to complain about when the dogs are shut inside an intensive breeding facility.
Teijin Xing is a Chinese local, and says the landscape for animal welfare is rapidly changing in China. She says that she ate dog when she was younger, and was never taught that it was wrong. “We went to local restaurants and ate dog as we were told it was nutritious for us. I would never eat a dog now. They are pets”. Though no legislation has been enacted in China yet, organisations like Animals Asia are trying to combat the issue of dog abuse. Jill Moon, founder of Animals Asia, says the situation is changing, and current practices and old ideas are being reversed. “Chinese celebrities are also helping Animals Asia in our campaign to end the consumption of dogs and cats through an activity called “Celebrities say NO to cat and dog meat”. The campaign has gone incredibly well, with celebrities standing up at rock concerts, putting their faces on public billboards and spreading the news on Chinese social media that consuming dogs and cats is simply unacceptable.
With changing laws in China and the push to end puppy farming in Australia, it looks as though there could be hope for dogs across the East and the West.
Ignorance is not bliss.