A historic moment for animal welfare: China's publication of a new National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources, which was announced on 29th May, means that live dogs for food and dog meat are not allowed to be sold anymore. Cats were never part of the livestock list and therefore also not allowed to be sold for food. Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS welcomes this landmark decision and calls on the Governments of Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam to follow China’s example. FOUR PAWS warns that the dog and cat meat trade is not only the biggest companion animal welfare issue in Southeast Asia but also poses a major risk to both public and global health. The unhygienic conditions under which the animals are captured, transported, held and slaughtered – often in live animal markets – are the perfect breeding ground for new zoonotic viruses.
In Vietnam, around five million dogs and one million cats are stolen and brutally slaughtered for their meat every year. The animals are frequently transported across borders, including to and from China. With an estimated four million pets and stray animals killed each year, the situation in Cambodia and Indonesia is similarly devastating.
“It is a positive signal that by banning the sale of dog meat, China is also recognizing these animals as companions and not food, although it also points to grave concerns regarding food safety. Now is the time for Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia to finally act as China has done to protect public health and to bring an end to this cruel trade. In addition to immense animal suffering, the trade is also responsible for outbreaks of diseases such as rabies and cholera. And as we now know, global health and economy can suffer as a result of deadly zoonotic viruses that are emerging from live animal markets where the dog and cat meat is regularly sold."
-Dr. Katherine Polak, FOUR PAWS veterinarian and head of Stray Animal Care in Southeast Asia
Slaughterhouses and live animal markets: ticking time bombs
The injured and traumatized dogs and cats, including stolen pets, are crammed together in small cages and transported without food and water for hours or even days to unsanitary slaughterhouses and live animal markets across Southeast Asia. The conditions the animals endure lead to them having weakened immune systems, which makes them contract and transmit diseases.
The markets and slaughterhouses themselves create the perfect breeding ground for deadly zoonotic viruses, such as the novel coronavirus. “The rampant dog and cat meat trade and the live animal markets throughout Southeast Asia are ticking time bombs. If governments don't stop this brutal trade now and shut down the cruel markets and slaughterhouses, the next global pandemic could originate from Vietnam, Cambodia or Indonesia,” says Dr Polak.
FOUR PAWS’ fight against the dog and cat meat trade
In order to sustainably end the brutal dog and cat meat trade in Southeast Asia, FOUR PAWS has launched a campaign on an international and national level. A major building block of this campaign is the network of local animal welfare organizations and communities throughout the region.
Through this network, FOUR PAWS helps relieve the pressures of stray animal populations, a major source of dogs and cats for the trade, with humane and sustainable stray animal care programs. FOUR PAWS is also part of the animal welfare coalitions DMFI (Dog Meat Free Indonesia) and ACPA (Asia Canine Protection Alliance), which lobby against the trade in Southeast Asia, as well as the Asia for Animals Coalition, which works to improve the welfare of animals across Asia.
“Through educational work and cooperation with the responsible authorities, local communities and the tourism industry, FOUR PAWS’ goal is for Governments in Southeast Asia to introduce, strengthen and enforce animal protection laws, which will bring an end to the capture, slaughter and consumption of dogs and cats. China has made an important first step to bring this trade to an end, it’s now time for Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia to do the same to protect millions of people and animals.”
-Dr. Karanvir Kukreja, Project Manager for FOUR PAWS’ Ending the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Campaign.
In addition, FOUR PAWS has launched a petition against the dog and cat meat trade, which has already been signed by over 750,000 supporters worldwide since it launched late last year:
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za