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Helping dogs in the meat trade

From Animal Sheltering magazine September/October 2015

Wayne Pacelle and his adopted dog, Lily

When Mr. Genlin, a Hong Kong businessman and dog lover, visited a market in his ancestral town in southeastern China last year, he saw rows and rows of dogs crammed into tiny wire cages, yanked out by the neck and butchered on the spot. Mr. Genlin, who shares his life with 10 beautiful dogs, knew he’d been witness to a terrible moral crime. He determined to devote his life to ending the dog meat trade.

I met with Mr. Genlin in June, when he visited Washington, D.C., to screen “Eating Happiness,” his documentary about the dog meat trade. Mr. Genlin did some brave work to obtain firsthand documentation of the cruelty of the trade in China, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. He gathered plenty of evidence that many of the dogs who end up on dinner plates are stolen pets. His jarring and illuminating documentary calls us to end this appalling trade, even as we continue to confront problems for dogs in the U.S.

At The HSUS, we’ve long fought for stronger legal protections for dogs in America. We’ve successfully campaigned to make dogfighting a felony in every state, and worked with Congress to upgrade the federal animal fighting laws four times since 2002. Our Stop Puppy Mills Campaign has led efforts to crack down on abusive breeders and reduce the flow of dogs into shelters and rescue groups. We’ve worked with you and a host of others to promote spay/neuter and adoption and to drive down euthanasia rates. Now, through our global affiliate Humane Society International (HSI), we’re extending our reach to dogs in crisis around the world. For years, we’ve been partnering with local governments in Bhutan, India and across Southeast Asia to spay or neuter and vaccinate street dogs. We’re also taking our animal fighting campaign global. Earlier this year, we helped secure the first ever dogfighting conviction in Costa Rica, and we are working to outlaw animal fighting and other forms of malicious cruelty around the world.

Of all the abuses of dogs, the dog meat trade may be the most viscerally unsettling. An estimated 30 million dogs are killed in the trade every year, many in the most appalling ways.

The good news, though, is that public opinion across Asia is turning against the trade. Mr. Genlin’s documentary shows how thousands of young Chinese are mobilizing to stop meat trucks and rescue dogs. HSI has been on the ground for the last three years, supporting local groups in China that are working against the trade.

HSI is also pioneering a program to help dog meat farmers in South Korea—the only nation with a commercial dog farming industry—to transition to more humane livelihoods. HSI’s initial forays proved successful; our team helped shut down two dog meat operations, bringing the dogs back to the U.S. and working with shelters to place the animals here.

When our shelter partners—including the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria and the Washington Animal Rescue League in the East, and the San Francisco SPCA and Marin Humane Society in the West—opened their doors and hearts to these dogs, they reported surges in public interest in all of their animals. These high-profile cases put the organizations in the spotlight, and many good people got an introduction to their lifesaving work for animals.

The campaign to end the dog meat trade is global, and we’ll need your help here in the U.S. to make it succeed. But it’s incredibly encouraging that there is a growing movement throughout Asia to end this trade. The surging interest in animal welfare throughout the world gives me hope, because dogs know no presidents or premiers. They all have the capacity to suffer—and we have a duty to rise to their defense.

About the Author

Wayne Pacelle is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of The Humane Society of the United States. Under Pacelle's leadership, The HSUS has been approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar's Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities, and is ranked in the top 10 for nonprofit brands.