A Resounding Voice From China Says “No” to Animal Cruelty
I was overwhelmed with emotion when news of the government officials canceling pending dog cull in Jiangmen reached me. It is a relief that tens of thousands of lives are spared. But what moved me even more is that this time, it wasn’t the appeals from the international community that stopped the government officials knee-jerk decision. It was the concern and outrage from Chinese citizens flooding the internet and the media, which eventually forced the local bureaucrats to back down!
To people who don’t know about China, this victory of the people may not seem at all significant. After all, in the countries where we live in, officials are voted by the people and they normally don’t do things that are not popular among their constituency.
But we are talking about China, a country where I was born and grew up. I saw a Presidential election for the first time in my life when I went to theUnited Statesto do post graduate study. Government officials represent authority and you don’t ever question the decisions of the authority.
In the past two decades, things are changing with China’s opening to the outside world for economic development and with the advance of internet technology. In the past, if government media didn’t allow a story in the news, the public wouldn’t hear of it. Today, even though many popular social networking web sites in the west such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are blocked by the Chinese government’s “Great Fire Wall”, local companies created their own Chinese equivalent versions, which are replacing the government controlled conventional media as sources of information and outlets for expressing opinions, accessible by the nearly 500 million internet users in China.
In the past decades, I also saw the change in attitudes towards animals as well. Collaborating with IFAW, China’s largest online retail site, Taobao.com banned the trade of tiger bone, bear bile, elephant ivory, turtle shell and shark fin. In an IFAW poll, over 80% of the people said that they would not consume elephant ivory if they had known elephants are killed for their ivory.
Education and awareness raising is the key to changing behavior inChina. And this work is excellently carried out by our all-Chinese staff in the IFAW China office. Our understanding of the local political, social, and cultural environment help us better communicate animal welfare in a way that resonates with the general public in China.
Social change takes time. China has a long way to go in changing its treatment of animals. But just as Chinese philosopher Lao Zi (Lao-tsu) said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. What we witnessed today is a single step. But it shows progress in China. This progress should be embraced and celebrated. It needs our support and nurturing. We, all animal loving people everywhere, should stand with our friends in China to urge the government to improve legislation to make all cruelty to animals, illegal and punishable by law.
I completely agree with a comment to my earlier blog, it's only by encouraging and supporting animal groups within China, that anyone outside China can help positive change to come about for animals in China.