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Tag: china

China’s dog meat festival opens to protests

The annual dog meat festival in the Southern China city of Yulin opened yesterday — despite what was probably the heaviest barrage of criticism and protest in its history.

As vendors slaughtered dogs and cooked their meat in dozens of restaurants across the city, animal welfare activists attempted to disrupt the opening of the 10-day festival.

Some bought dogs from dealers to save them from being slaughtered. Others argued with local residents, and police were intervening to prevent physical confrontations, according to news reports.

“We came to Yulin to tell people here dogs are our friends. They should not kill dogs in such a cruel way and many of the dogs they killed are pet dogs,” said Yang Yuhua, a volunteer from the central city of Chongqing.

While most of the meat used at the festival comes from farm dogs raised for that purpose, critics say strays and stolen pet dogs often end up in the mix.

One day into the festival, local residents were complaining that outsiders were ruining the tradition.

“It’s been a tradition for years for us to celebrate the festival. We can’t change it simply because they (animal lovers) love dogs,” a local resident told The Associated Press. “They don’t want us to eat dog meat. We eat dog meat to celebrate the festival, but since they’ve come here, they’ve ruined our mood completely.”

Promoters say eating dog meat during the summer helps ward off the heat and maintain a healthy metabolism.

More than 10,000 animals are killed each year for the summer solstice festival, which has become a focal point for those seeking to halt the tradition of eating dog in China and other Asian countries.

An estimated 10 million to 20 million dogs are killed for their meat each year in China.

This year, the list of celebrities speaking out against the practice grew.

Matt Damon, Pamela Anderson, Minnie Driver and Joaquin Phoenix were among those appearing in a video (above) produced by the Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation.

Yulin’s local government has sought to distance itself from the event, forbidding its employees from attending and limiting its size by shutting down some dog markets and slaughter houses.

“The so-called dog-meat eating festival has never been officially recognized by government or by any regulations or laws,” said an official reached by telephone at the city government’s general office.

“We hold meetings every time before the so-called festival, discussing counter measures such as deploying local police, business and sanitary authorities to inspect and deal with those who sell dogs,” he said.

Between those efforts and the international criticism that seems to increase every year, some organizations say the number of dogs killed for the event might be decreasing.

A bull in a china shop? How about a boxer?

Harvey-carries-umbrella-for-owner-Sara-Vestal-on-a-rainy-day_28129

The first time I saw the sign outside a giant warehouse off Interstate 40/85 in Greensboro — a place called Replacements, Ltd. — I chuckled and wished I had my camera.

On the sign, the company was proclaiming its dog friendliness.

What does Replacements sell?

China and crystal.

SideOrder0427A0041398358804The phrase “bull in a china shop” came to mind, followed by the phrase “you break it, you buy it.”

But I never took that picture, and — not being the type of person to replace china, or own it — I never dropped in to investigate.

Now, sparked by a story in the latest issue of All Animals, I’ve done a little research, learning (contrary to my assumption) that Replacements allows more than little dogs toted in customer’s handbags, that from 20 to 30 employees regularly bring dogs of all sizes to work with them (including one with a boxer), and that the company’s owner (a dachshund man) is also a pretty interesting guy.

(And maybe, too, that china isn’t as boring as I always thought.)

There’s a captivating story in the spring issue of Oxford American, that relates the company’s history and profiles its owner, Bob Page, who openly lobbied for the legalization of same-sex marriage in North Carolina, and whose company has established itself as gay friendly, pet friendly and family friendly.

Page, a native North Carolinian who grew up on a tobacco farm in Rockingham County, developed a passion for plates, and pursued it, according to the magazine.

When Page was growing up in rural North Carolina, he didn’t know anyone who was openly gay. He endured the hardship of being different in a small town, and the pain stayed with him: after he was drafted into the Army, he considered suicide. By the time he became an auditor for the state in the late 1970s, he was miserable in his job. He spent weekends junking around flea markets and trolling for collectibles, and he found that he looked forward to this hobby far more than he enjoyed going to work. He said, “My love of flea markets and the fact that I hated my job were the two things that compelled me to start Replacements.”

Today, the warehouse is the size of eight football fields, has a full-time staff of 400 workers, grosses $80 million a year, and dogs can commonly be seen alongside employees in their cubicles.

The company’s dog friendliness also caught the eye of the Humane Society of the United States, which publishes All Animals magazine.

fordThe magazine reports that Replacements has had a pets in the workplace program for more than 20 years.

It started when Page brought his own dachshunds into the office, enjoyed it and realized employees might like to bring their dogs to work, too.

The effects have been highly positive, the company says, improving job satisfaction and job performance, helping employees form stronger bonds and increasing cooperation.

Four years ago, Ford welcomed a husband and wife research team from Virginia Commonwealth University to spend a week at Replacements to conduct a study about dogs in the workplace.

Business professor Randolph T. Barker and his wife Susan, a professor of psychiatry, divided the 90 participants into three groups: those who had dogs and brought them to work, those who had dogs but didn’t bring them to work, and those who didn’t have dog.

replacementsMeasuring the amounts of cortisol in participants’ saliva at specific moments throughout the day, they found that dogs in the workplace make people — no matter which group they are in — happier.

Sure, it was another one of those studies that tells dog lovers what they already know, but it lends even more credence to the question:

If a china shop can be dog-friendly, can’t every workplace be?

(Photos: At top, a boxer named Harvey accompanies an employee on her way outside, courtesy of Replacements, Ltd.; bottom photo, Charlie rides along with employee Kim Headen as she works in the warehouse, by Peter Taylor/AP Images for The HSUS.; other photos courtesy of Replacements, Ltd.)

China creates “Super Dog” via gene editing

editeddogsFirst, scientists in South Korea brought us dog cloning — a chance, or so it was initially described, to use cells from your sick, dying or even dead dog to create the exact same dog again, in healthy puppy form.

It was a bad idea.

Now, scientists in China are hard at work on an equally worrisome one.

Chinese researchers report they have created a beagle with double the amount of muscle mass, through a process called “gene editing.”

Gene editing involves injecting embryos with a DNA snipping enzyme, Cas9, and a guide molecule that zeroes in on a particular stretch of DNA. The goal is to knock out the myostatin gene so a dog’s body can not produce any of the muscle-inhibiting protein that the gene manufactures.

The result, as they see it, is a Super Dog — useful to the police and military.

This is hardly the first time man has manipulated the species. We’ve been doing it for centuries by inbreeding them to create dogs that, while not necessarily healthier — and sometimes quite the opposite — better suit our needs and please our eyes.

But gene editing is, right up there with cloning, one of the more blatant, creepy and invasive routes man has taken.

And it prompts us to say, with more emotion than a scientist can probably understand: Dogs are already super, China. So leave them the hell alone.

To create one “super beagle,” the researchers injected more than 60 dog embryos. Less than half survived to birth. Of 27 puppies born, only two had the sought after disruption in their myostatin genes.

And in only one was the gene editing considered “complete,” said Liangxue Lai, a researcher at the Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health.

Custom made, genetically engineered dogs will have “more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications,” Lai is quoted as saying in the MIT Technology Review

Lai and 28 colleagues reported their results last week in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, saying they intend to create dogs with other DNA mutations, including ones that mimic human diseases such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy to be used in biomedical research.

South Korea’s dog cloners, in addition to cloning dogs for bereaved pet owners, are also creating dogs for the police and military, and dogs with diseases for research purposes.

Lai said his group had no plans breed to breed the extra-muscular beagles as pets. But, as the Review article points out, that wouldn’t stop others from moving to commercialize the gene-editing process.

A different Chinese Institute, BGI, said in September it had begun selling miniature pigs, created via gene editing, for $1,600 each as novelty pets.

And if gene editing follows the path of dog cloning, now available to dog owners for $100,000, its transition to marketplace will be swift an unregulated.

In addition to pigs, goats, rabbits, rats and monkeys have been engineered using gene editing in China, which considers the efforts a national scientific priority — much like South Korea did with dog cloning.

Lai’s team says the sole male dog they successfully produced, named Hercules, would pass the myostatin mutation on if he were to be bred.

“The favorable traits that result from gene editing can pass generation by generation,” says Lai.

“Favorable,” in this case, meaning what the researchers hoped for.

For the 33 embryos that didn’t survive, and perhaps for those that did, we’d hardly consider it favorable, or even necessary.

No dog lover should.

Edit your papers, scientists — not our dogs.

(Photo: Hercules, at left, and Tiangou, the world’s first gene-edited dogs, from MIT Technology Review)

Tibetan mastiffs going out of style in China

nibble

Tibetan mastiffs, which once fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the Chinese marketplace, are going out of style.

The New York Times reports that the lion-like dogs — all the rage among the wealthy in China just two years ago — are quickly becoming yesterday’s trend.

The reasons? A slowing economy for one, coupled with “an official austerity campaign that has made ostentatious consumption a red flag for anti-corruption investigators.” On top of that, the fad is doing what fads do — fade away, often, when it comes to dogs, with disturbing consequences.

About half of the country’s mastiff breeders have left the business, and those that are left are dealing with a surplus so severe that members of the breed can now be spotted on trucks laden with dogs headed to slaughterhouses.

About 20 mastiffs were on one such truck, with 150 other dogs, when it was stopped by Beijing animal rights activists who purchased the entire load from the driver and sent the surviving dogs to rescue organizations.

The Times says that, amid decreasing demand, the average asking price for mastiffs, which have reportedly sold for as much as $1.6 million, has dropped to around $2,000.

“If I had other opportunities, I’d quit this business,” said Gombo, a veteran breeder in China’s northwestern province of Qinghai. “The pressure we’re under is huge.”

Since 2013, about half the 95 breeders in Tibet have gone under, according to the Tibetan Mastiff Association.

“In some ways, the cooling passion for Tibetan mastiffs reflects the fickleness of a consuming class that adopts and discards new products with abandon,” the Times reported.

“Fads are a huge driving force in China’s luxury market,” Liz Flora, editor in chief of Jing Daily, a marketing research company in Beijing, told the Times.  “Han Chinese consumers have been willing to pay a premium for anything associated with the romanticism of Tibet.”

Other factors in the trend’s demise include unscrupulous breeders who mated purebred Tibetan mastiffs with other breeds, and the breed’s reputation of being aggressive.

Tibetan mastiffs are fiercely loyal, increasing the likelihood of attacks on strangers, experts say, and in the past couple of years some Chinese cities have banned the breed.

(Photo: Nibble, a Tibetan mastiff, was checked by veterinarians after being saved from the slaughterhouse by a group of animal rights activists; by Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times)

Dog travels 250 miles lodged in car bumper

dogbumper


Struck by a car and swallowed up behind the car’s bumper, a dog in China is reported to have traveled 250 miles before being extricated unharmed.

The stray dog ran out in front of a car driven by a man identified only as Mr. Zhang in China’s Hunan Province, according to Peoples Daily.

Zhang continued driving. “I was driving pretty quickly at the time so when I hit the dog, I thought it had either died or run away, so I didn’t get out of the car to check,” he later said.

When he heard whimpering and barking — apparently not until about 200 miles later —  he stopped the car and found the dog wedged between the car’s water tank and front bumper.

Afraid pulling the dog out might injure it, he got back in his car and drove to a veterinary clinic, where the dog was extricated and found not to have suffered any serious injuries.

Four days later, Zhang returned to the clinic and adopted the dog as his own.

Five-year-old Vietnamese girl finds her dog, roasted, at roadside meat market

vietgirl

A photo of a five-year-old Vietnamese girl who reportedly found her missing pet dog at a roadside market — roasted and on display in a flat woven basket — has gone viral, leading to new-found furor over the age-old tradition of eating dog in some Asian countries.

The story behind the photo is only loosely documented. The Daily Mail reports, without attribution, that the girl lives in the countryside of north Vietnam, and that she had raised the dog, named Flower, for three years.

vietnam2A few days after Flower went missing, the girl was walking by a street market and saw what she thought was Flower, roasted and with her paws removed.

“That’s Flower,” the girl reportedly cried as she rushed over to the dog.

The photo has gone viral, leading to renewed calls for ending the practice — among some in Korea, China and Vietnam — of eating dog meat.

While most of the meat comes from farm-raised dogs, runaways and stray dogs often end up at the roadside markets.

The photo was posted on a social media website initially, and has since been widely shared and picked up by the news media (though few media outlets seem to have done any actual reporting).

Interestingly, some media outlets are shielding their readers from seeing the image in full. The Daily Mail, for example, showed the entire photo, but, for some reason, saw fit to blur out the dog’s face. Others warn readers of graphic images ahead, or make you click a few more times before viewing the full image. Few seem to have done any actual reporting

That strikes me as hypocritical, and as a bit of a tease, and as contrary to the mission of the news media, which is not to shield us from going on, but to show us what’s going on — with un-blurred photos and un-blurred facts.

Petco clears shelves of Chinese jerky treats

jerky

Petco says it has pulled all Chinese-made dog and cat treats from store shelves, fulfilling a promise the chain made to customers last May.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,”  Jim Myers, Petco’s chief executive, said Monday — a good seven years after complaints first surfaced about chicken treats made in China sickening and killing dogs.

The FDA has been investigating the treats since 2007, but has yet to yet to establish a definite link to the deaths and sicknesses.

Thousands of pets have fallen ill — hundreds fatally — leading to 5,000 complaints of pet illnesses suspected to have been caused by chicken, duck, and vegetable jerky treats made in China.

Despite  steadily rising concerns, American companies continued to market the treats (under the names Waggin’ Tail and Milo’s Kitchen, among others), and the country’s largest pets stores, including Petco and PetSmart,  continued to sell them.

Petco,which has not sold China-made dog and cat foods for several years, announced last May that it would clear store shelves of the jerky treats. (We’re still not clear on why doing so would take seven months.)

PetSmart, which, like Petco, operates more than 1,300 stores nationally, has pledged to remove all Chinese-made pet treats from its stores by spring, according to the Washington Post.

Nestle Purina and Del Monte, which own the brands such Waggin’ Tail and Milo’s Kitchen, stopped selling chicken jerky dog treats made in China back in 2012, calling the shift precautionary.

The Petco announcement  applies only to treats made with jerky and rawhide, according to Lily Gluzberg, a spokesperson for the company.

The FDA has been unable to tie the illnesses specifically to Chinese-made pet foods, despite testing more than a thousand samples and  inspecting factories in China. But it continues to investigate.