If you go on to any animal rights organisation’s page these days you’re sure to stumble across a petition against the dog meat industry in China. The recent expose by Animal Equality has once again brought this issue to surface and all the problems that come with it.
The disproportionate amount of attention paid to the dog meat industries in these countries is deeply problematic for various reasons:
When we focus on dogs and other companion animals we are reinforcing this idea that it is acceptable to exploit certain animals (cows, pigs, chickens etc.) over others. We do this without even beginning to think about how companion animals are exploited in our culture through the pet industry.
By focusing on the dog meat industry in particular we are normalizing the consumption of other animals. The dog meat industry is attacked because it is considered “strange” and “barbaric” by Western standards. When was the last time that you ever saw a petition against the cow or pig meat industry in China? Or the United Kingdom for that matter?
The campaign against the dog meat industry in China often simplifies the argument to the point where it becomes solely about nationality. The Chinese – they would argue – eat dogs therefore they are the enemy. They tar everybody with the same brush despite the existence of groups like the Chinese Companion Animal Protection Network (CCAPN) who actively campaign against the dog meat industry from within China itself.
These sort of campaigns open the floodgates for the racism and xenophobia that is hidden just below the surface of the animal rights movement (and society at large). You only have to take one look at Animal Equality’s Facebook page since the release of the expose to see the sort of stuff I’m talking about. Comments range from mildly xenophobic to outright racist hate speech aimed at the Chinese. These sort of comments are ignored or accepted. People are rarely called out for their racist views.
When you look at the campaign against the dog meat industry from another angle what you basically have is a group of white people in the west telling people in China how they should act. We are sitting here in our homes in the West telling people in far-away countries to change their ways and be more like us. We are assuming that Western culture is the only, and therefore the best culture, and all other cultures should just copy us.
How are we any different to the invading armies of the United States who claim to bring “peace and democracy” to the Middle East? The only difference is that we don’t have guns and our message is about “compassion”! We are replicating out-of-date colonial mindsets that lead us to believe that we are somehow superior to people in other countries, that we know best, and everyone else should follow our example because we’re oh so fucking perfect.
How then, should we move forward in the fight against the dog meat industry in China? For a start we should step back and hand over the reigns to the people in those countries who are fighting these battles on behalf of the animals there. We should show solidarity with those fighting for animal liberation in China and offer our support when they ask for it. We should never speak on behalf of them or act as if we know what’s best.
We should also involve ourselves with the struggle against animal exploitation in our own countries. Not just by going vegan or protesting against the animal agricultural industries. We need to look at how companion animals are abused by the pet industry. At the root of all these oppressions is the belief that humans are somehow superior to other animals. This belief allows humans to dominate other animals in countless ways. We need to unlearn this human-centric world view and spread a message of compassion that goes beyond what we do or do not buy.
Animal exploitation will only be stopped by the combined efforts of animal advocates across the globe working together for animal liberation. It will not be won by a small group of people in the west dictating to the rest of the world how to act. As the old saying goes: “Think Globally, Act Locally”.