Dogs are still getting killed around China. And people around the world are still throwing up their arms in shock.
“My God, man, they are murdering pooches!”
On August 4, officials in Jining, Shandong province, said they would kill all dogs within five kilometres of any rabies outbreak. In the last eight months, 16 people have died of rabies in Jining. State media did not say how many pooches would be harmed in the making of this policy but the city has about 500,000 dogs.
The day before, the good folks in Yunnan province killed 54,429 dogs in five days after three people died of rabies. Officials were creative in their efforts. They lit firecrackers and followed the barks. Owners were offered US$0.63 to kill their own dogs.
More than a century ago, a similar policy paid residents to kill rats and avoid the bubonic plague. The Chinese, creative entrepreneurs that they are, started importing rats by the truckload.
But as I was saying, the year of the dog is not working out well for our canine friends. (For more on this, see the previous blog Dead Dogs.)
The practice is not entirely new. In the three years leading to 1991, Yunnan folks killed 10 million dogs, Canada’s Globe and Mail reported. But that was before China became trendy, so it didn’t matter as much.
Nowadays, though, even commentaries within China are dead set against the slaughters. A big change from the last year of the dog, 1994, when the Communist party was demanding an end to the “uncivilised and unhealthy” practice of keeping dogs as pets, as the Financial Times tells us.
However, almost 2,400 people died of rabies in China last year. More affluent Chinese are buying dogs by the millions but only 3% are vaccinated.
I don’t know if buying a dog is a right or a privilege. Just like I don’t know what is more important, 2,400 human lives or half a million dogs. Although, I would probably go for the people – much as I like dogs. I also don’t know how you force hundreds of millions to vaccinate their dogs overnight. The Humane Society of the United States said Wednesday it would cough up US$100,000 for vaccines if China stops the killings. That’s like offering to make the Yangtze smaller by taking a sip through a straw.
I do know that no viable alternative step has been put forward, beyond letting dogs live and whoever is careless enough to get bitten take his or her chances with the rabies.
The most ridiculous comment came from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an organization with some practice at the ridiculous comment business.
The group led by Ingrid Newkirk was “urging everyone to actively boycott – not a word we use lightly – anything from China, given the bludgeoning killing of thousands of dogs.”
PETA itself cancelled US$300,000 worth of orders of Chinese products.
That will show’em.
I can’t remember PETA making any kind of stink about the culling of millions of chickens whenever a new case of bird flu appears. Granted, bird flu is unknown and scary while there is a rabies vaccine. Still, that’s probably not much consolation for the chickens.
Imagine the conversation across rural Chinese households if the world actually listened to PETA.
Xiao Meimei: “Baba, where is Spot?”
Father: “Spot had to be killed daughter. We beat him. The government said he could have had rabies.”
Xiao Meimei: “What is rabies, Baba?”
Father: “A bad disease.”
Xiao Meimei: “Baba… why aren’t you at work?”
Father: “We were punished for doing what the government told us to do. They shut down the factory. Nobody wants to buy our things any more.”
Xiao Meimei: “How will we eat?”
Father: “Well, we still have Spot.”