Pets snatched and butchered for food

By Chen Xiaoru Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-18 18:00:04

A woman passes by a restaurant in Xuhui district advertising a dog meat dish for 28 yuan. Photo: Cai Xianmin/GT
A woman passes by a restaurant in Xuhui district advertising a dog meat dish for 28 yuan. Photo: Cai Xianmin/GT

Zhu Hong was shocked when she saw her dog for the last time. Happy was a cheerful Pomeranian and Japanese Spitz cross. Zhu had been looking for Happy for three weeks after the dog vanished while she was walking it on Lianhua Road South in Minhang district. Fearing the dog had been dognapped she began exploring restaurants that served dog meat.

And then she came across a dog abattoir in the district, at the intersection of Lianhua Road South and Yindu Road. She turned a corner around some homes  and stood riveted with shock when she saw the body of her beloved pet suspended from a hook with most of its skin peeled off. Nearby a man with a knife was skinning another dog, a Golden Retriever. The body of a German Shepherd lay beside him.

Zhu will never forget that scene from just a few weeks ago. She ran out when she was spotted by the workers there who chased her and threatened her. She quickly texted a friend to bring some help. Soon a bunch of animal lovers arrived along with police. But the abattoir workers refused to hand over the dogs until the police called in a tactical response group of armed officers, according to a report in the Shanghai Evening Post.

This is not the only dog abattoir operating in Shanghai. But police and animal rights groups have their hands tied because there is no legislation regulating selling dog or cat meat.

Recently pet lovers have been reporting more dogs and cats going missing from homes and streets in the city. Many of these, animal rights activists fear, have already wound up on dinner tables. A Chinese traditional belief holds that eating dog meat in the winter helps people avoid illnesses.

Already dead

Zhu said that her dog Happy was already dead by the time she arrived at the abattoir. "There was a hole in her skull that showed she had been smashed against the ground or a wall." On the field she had pleaded with the workers to let her take her pet's body home, but they refused, telling her it was not her dog and that they had bought it from a food market.

But Zhu knew it was her dog. "I could see her head and paws which had not been touched. I saw the dark circle she had under her chin - that was her marking. And I had trimmed her nails to different lengths. I knew it was Happy at first sight because I have looked after her for six years. I knew her very well," Zhu said. As well the dog had Happy's microchip embedded under the skin.

"I had registered Happy. The micro-chip proved it was a registered pet," she said. In fact she later had had to get licensing authorities to decommission the chip before she could have the dog cremated.

An animal rights activist, who wants to be known as Gavin, rushed to the abattoir when he was alerted by Zhu and others. He told the Global Times that there were still a live Pomeranian and two Siberian huskies caged at the site. One of the huskies belonged to a woman who came to the abattoir later.

As the protesters arrived, the scene around the abattoir grew chaotic. More abattoir workers arrived and staff from nearby restaurants that served dog meat rushed to help them, blocking the street off so that police could not take away the living dogs.

Eventually eight men were arrested by the police for disturbing public order and disrupting service, the Oriental Morning Post reported.

Zhu recalled the day she lost Happy. She was walking her dog along Lianhua Road South. She let the dog off the leash to relieve itself on a nearby patch of grass and garden but the dog didn't return as usual. When she realized Happy was missing she began panicking and calling the dog's name.

She had a bad feeling. "I had heard about this sort of thing. Dogs are taken away after being drugged or tranquilized. Happy usually barked at strangers. She must have been drugged," Zhu said.

Zhu had walked past the abattoir dozens of times in the past. She had tried to persuade one of the women who worked there to stop killing dogs but the woman claimed that all the dog meat they processed came from farms where dogs were raised for food.

She believes that there is an organized ring involved in dognapping, slaughtering and processing the flesh for food in Shanghai.

Drugs and darts

Dog owners in rural Shanghai, including Chongming, Qingpu, and Jiading, have reported seeing dognappers using tranquilizer darts or drugs to snatch their dogs.

One man, surnamed Xu, from Paiya village in Gangxi town in Chongming, said that one day he heard a yelp and ran out of his two-storied building. One of his two black Labradors he kept in the yard staggered towards him and collapsed to the ground.

As he looked around he saw two men on a motorcycle just outside his yard. They were carrying a long pole with a noose on it and a large bag and sped away when they saw him. He chased after them on his scooter but they escaped. 

When he got back home he found his Labrador had died. There was a dart on its body, the Xinmin Evening News reported.

Last month pet owners in Cenbu village, Qingpu district, also reported missing dogs. An old woman surnamed Zhou said two strangers had been seen riding a motorcycle around the village just before the dogs went missing, the Shanghai Evening Post reported.

Zhou Fanliang is the vice Party chief of the village and told the Global Times that most of the dogs that were stolen were taken by outsiders. "Locals don't have a tradition of eating dogs. When there were not so many outsiders living near the village, villagers seldom had their dogs stolen."

Zhou said that the dognappers usually attracted the animals by offering them food laced with drugs or by shooting the dogs with poisoned or drugged darts. They then stuff the pets' bodies into bags and drive off quickly.

"We have found dog skins in a forest near the village. The dognappers must have slaughtered the animals there," he said. However, Zhou said that there was little that could be done to prevent the thefts. "We can't stop motorcyclists or question strangers - we don't have the right to do that."

Most of the dogs that are stolen will probably wind up in restaurants - according to, a restaurant website, there are 63 restaurants offering dog meat in Shanghai.

Strays or stolen

Zhang Yi is a former director of the Shanghai Small Animal Protection Association and he told the Global Times that most of the dog meat in Shanghai comes from stray dogs or stolen pets. He said that there were no dog meat farms in Shanghai now.

An industry insider from a farm in Shandong Province which raises dogs for meat said she knew of no dog farms in Shanghai.

"Most of our dogs are sold to the northeastern parts of China or places where ethnic Koreans live. I don't think there are any dog farms in Shanghai - the restaurants there find their own ways of getting dogs," said the woman.

Earlier this month a restaurant in Zhuanqiao town in Minhang was advertising to buy dogs from residents. Residents reported that the restaurant had put a sign on the front of its doorway saying it would pay 40 yuan ($6.42) for a large dog and 20 yuan for a small one. When the Global Times visited the restaurant, the owner had removed the sign. He was seen carving up dogs' bodies at the front of his restaurant, which sold dog meat for 54 yuan a kilogram.

"We butcher the dogs ourselves. We usually do it in the evening, which is an order from chengguan (city management enforcement officers). There have been dog lovers complaining about us to the authorities," a woman from the restaurant said.

It seems there is nothing illegal occurring. Zhu Xiaofeng, a lawyer from the Shanghai branch of Chang'an Law Firm, told the Global Times that there are no laws preventing people from eating or slaughtering pets in China. "The law protects only rare animal species. Because cats and dogs are not listed as protected animals there is no prohibition on them being killed for food."

However, she said, it was against the law to steal or kill someone else's dogs or cats.

Director Zhang Yi said that it was against the law to slaughter dogs and cats without a permit from agricultural authorities. "Animals have to pass quarantine tests before being butchered for food. However, there is not a quarantine inspection standard for dog meat. There is a standard for pork, which is a more common meat. Because there is no standard it must be against the law to kill dogs for food."

According to the Ministry of Agriculture's animal quarantine regulations, anyone wanting to butcher animals has to apply for the animals to be tested for diseases at least six hours beforehand. Anyone wanting to transport animals to another place for slaughter has to apply for the animals to be tested three days beforehand.

Only beef or pork

The Shanghai Municipal Agricultural Commission confirmed that there were no dog farms in Shanghai and stated it only supervised the processing of animals normally used for food, like cattle and pigs.

Xu Fang, a senior officer in food and drug administration in Zhuanqiao town, said his department had received reports of a restaurant butchering dogs in the area, but they were not responsible for overseeing this issue.

The Shanghai Wildlife Conservation Management Station said that it also had no responsibility to oversee household dogs and cats.

Cheng Jihao is an animal rights activist and a pet shop owner. He told the Global Times that because there was little governmental assistance to help protect dogs and cats, he and other activists had become dedicated to saving cats from being stolen and processed for eating.

Along with another 50 cat lovers, Cheng stopped three trucks packed with caged cats in Jiading district earlier this month. The trucks were on the way to Guangdong Province which has a tradition of eating cats, and where some people believe cat meat can cure asthma.

"We have established a cat protection refuge in Fengxian district to raise the cats that are rescued from slaughter. They will be taken care of before they can be adopted," Cheng said.

But the refuge is already overflowing with the dozens of cats he saved from a food market on Tongchuan Road in September.

"We call on the government to give us more support in protecting pets. I hope there will be a law soon prohibiting the slaughter of dogs and cats for food," he said.

Posted in: Food, Metro Shanghai

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