Open Letter to Julie Bishop on Dog and Cat Meat Trade
by James Doogue
18 June, 2018
Dear Ms Bishop,
I trust this email finds you well dealing, as you must, with a very hectic schedule as Foreign Minister and Deputy leader of the Liberal party.
I am writing to you about a subject probably not often, if ever raised with you in your role as an Australian politician or our Foreign Minister. I think it is a subject you should take some interest and leadership in. If you did so, I have no doubt you would gain the admiration and appreciation of the wider community in Australia and overseas. I have detailed at the end of this email what action you could take.
You were so good leading the world in your condemnation after the shooting down of flight MH17 on 17 July 2014 while flying over eastern Ukraine which killed all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. It is clear that you are often if not always, in touch with the things which matter to the average Australian.
Dog and Cat Meat Trade Around the World
I am sure you are aware of the Yulin dog meat festival which happens every year in China. The festival simply serves to highlight a barbaric practice which occurs year round in Asian and other countries in the world. In some cases, such as in Yulin, the practice of eating cats is also common. While the practice is often highlighted in China, it is a global problem. Dog and/or cat meat consumption occurs in South Korea, The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nigeria, Ghana, even Poland and Switzerland and the region of Nagaland in India, PNG, some South Pacific islands and other places around the world.
Dog meat for sale in a market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Source.
Last year Taiwan banned the selling and eating of cats and dogs after a series of cruelty cases that caused widespread outrage. This only proved something I have known for years.
The majority of people who live in countries where dogs and cats are eaten do not approve of the practice.
I have had some involvement with village people in Vietnam and Cambodia over the years who have dogs as pets. They find the idea of eating dog and cat meat abhorrent. In 2016 a poll conducted by Horizon, commissioned by the China Animal Welfare Association, found that most Chinese citizens want the Yulin festival to end. In fact 69.5% of those surveyed had never eaten dog, 64.0% support an end to the Yulin festival, 62% believe it damages China’s reputation and 51.7% of Chinese surveyed supported making farming, selling and eating dog illegal. To my knowledge Australia doesn’t even have laws banning the eating of dogs!
Eating Dogs and Cats is not a matter of Necessity
The practice of eating dog or cat meat cannot be argued as a necessary practice to help feed an undernourished population. Breeding and feeding dogs is more expensive and intensive than keeping other animals to gain vital protein and nutrition. Chickens or ducks, or, if the environment permits, combining rice paddies with fish farming and duck breeding and azolla production is far easier, cheaper and more productive.
Dog and Cat Meat Trade Persists because of Primitive Beliefs
The only reason the dog meat trade persists is because of primitive beliefs. For example, some believe that eating black dogs in winter will help you stay warm. In Nigeria some believe that eating dog helps build immunity to disease. People have were catching, killing and grilling dogs in Nigeria to protect against the Ebola outbreak. It’s also believed that eating dog may improve one’s sex life. In Poland dog and cat lard is believed to help in joint pain. In Ghana dog eaters believe that because the dog protects you in life, it will guard your flesh in its death after it is consumed.
These are all laughable beliefs, but they are persist. Even that isn’t what makes eating dogs and cats so abhorrent. I am not a vegetarian. I believe humans were meant to eat meat. I believe that is the purpose of our incisors and it is what helped humans evolve. But we have the capacity to rear livestock in a humane way, most particularly free ranging. We can dispatch the animals as painlessly and quickly as possible so they do not suffer like they used to as prey, continuously on their guard, hunted, often injured and then being brutally and painfully killed by their animal of human captors.
No Humane way to Provide Dog and Cat Meat
There is no humane way to get dog or cat meat to the plate.
There are two methods used to get the animals to market. One method is to steal people’s pets.
Cages of dogs and cats — some of them bred as domestic pets — are piled high and when an animal is chosen for sale it is bludgeoned with an iron bar until it is close to death before, being handed over to the purchaser. Source.
This video shows cats which have been captured and are ready to be chosen by a customer of the restaurant for immediate slaughter and consumption. They are clearly very distressed.
The other method is to ‘farm’ the cats and dogs. In ‘farming’, these intelligent, social animals which have evolved to be human companions, not dinner, never live outside cages. They develop deformed feet because of it. When there is enough meat on their bones, even more terror awaits them.
You may have seen the videos of dogs being clubbed to death, but with many still clinging to life while they are skinned. Video footage shows us that some of these poor animals are still conscious after having been totally skinned. Others are burned alive by blow torch. Can you imagine the pain? There are more videos of these activities which are easily Googled, for instance here, and here,
There is also a certain persistent belief that adrenaline, particularly the kind from fear, makes the dog or cat meat taste better and be more tender. In order to get this result, dogs and cats are sometimes tortured before death. They can be beaten to death slowly, boiled alive, or caused severe pain before slaughter, which is supposed to make the meat better so it can be sold at a higher price.
Hanoi street vendor’s wooden table containing several dogs stacked on top one another that have been cooked and roasted for human consumption.
What can Australia do?
The lead up to the Yulin dog meat festival might be a good time to gain some publicity for the cause of animal rights, and actions the Australian Government is taking in that area.
What I believe the Australian Government could do immediately and relatively easily include:
- Raise the issue at the United Nations
The previous UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s office told petitioners from South Korea that he could not do anything about the dog meat trade. The form letter response said the matter had to be raised through a country ambassador at the General Assembly for the matter to be considered. Australia could do that and such action would receive widespread support from:
- Dog and cat lovers in Australia and around the world.
- Anyone against animal cruelty
- Most of the population even in countries where dog and cat meat are consumed.
- The global Muslim population which believe dog meat, along with pork, to be haram (ritually unclean)
- Provide funding to Rescue Organisations
As a short term measure until the dog and cat meat trade can be banned in offending countries, the Australian Government could provide grants to organisations which rescue dogs and cats from markets. These organisations provide the medical needs of the animals and socialise them. They then offer them up for adoption after spaying of course. There are a number of organisations which specialise in this, including:
- The Soi Dog Foundation
- The Humane Society International
- Animal Asia
- Change for Animals Foundation
- Co-existence of Animal Rights on Earth
It is pretty hard to see you getting any blow-back from providing this funding because of the overwhelming antagonism towards the dog and cat meat trade, and the relatively small sum of money which would be required to make a huge difference to these organisations.
In fact to generate more publicity the Australian Government could announce that we would give say $0.50 for every $1.00 raised by these organisations to be spent on rescuing animals from the meat trade, to a maximum sum of……..
Such an offer would force the organisations to go out and make a special fund raising effort effectively promoting the Australian Government initiative.
- Provide funding for azolla, rice, duck, fish integration methods.
This could come out of our existing foreign aid budget but be targeted to provide funding for the training and development of integrating any combination of azolla, rice, duck and fish farming, specifically in countries where the dog and cat meat trade exists as a source of protein. These farming methods provide better sources of protein, not just for human consumption, but also for cattle fodder. There would be no financial incentive to prefer dog or cat farming versus these integrated farming methods.
I hope you can take some swift action on this issue which concerns Australians from all political and socio-economic backgrounds. It is hard not to imagine receiving bilateral support for any action on this matter in parliament.
James W Doogue