Nearly 200 heroic animal lovers in China saved the lives of 580 dogs that were being trucked to a Beijing slaughterhouse for their meat.
The courageous rescue demonstrated how a new middle class in Chinese society is changing how the country regards companion animals.
The Associated Press reported the event began when a man spotted a truck at a highway toll booth, “packed with hundreds of whimpering dogs.” The animal lover swerved in front of the truck to block it and then put out a plea for help on “Sina Weibo,” a popular Twitter-like microblogging site.
Nearly 200 people responded to the message and surrounded the truck for 15 hours. The group was finally able to negotiate with the driver to release of the dogs when they paid out a sum of $17,606.
Most of the money was paid by a pet company and an animal protection foundation.
The dogs, which were stacked on four levels of metal crates in the truck all showed signs of dehydration and wounds from scuffles with each other in the tight quarters. Some had severe injuries and others showed signs of contracting the deadly virus, Parvo.
“They were squeezing and pressing on each other and some were biting and fighting, and I saw some were injured or sick,” according to Li Wei, who is the manager of Capital Animal Welfare Association and one of the people who participated in the rescue. Li said at least one dog had died in the truck.
The dogs were brought to the Dongxing Animal Hospital in Beijing. On Tuesday 68 dogs remained in the facility, filling every room and corridor. Many were bandaged or had intravenous drips hanging from their limbs. Dozens of volunteers have collected at the hospital to clean cages and mop floors.
One dog even had a litter of puppies since being rescued from the slaughterhouse truck.
The rescue mission was a very remarkable statement about changes in Chinese culture. Historically dogs have been considered food in the country and there are no laws banning it.
But in China, “as people became well-off, they had money to raise dogs, and while raising these dogs, they developed feelings for dogs,” said Lu Yunfeng, a sociology professor at Peking University.
Another interesting aspect of the standoff was the reaction by police that were called to the scene.
At first they told the driver, who had all of his papers in order, to continue on his way. But when the man who originally started the blockade told them he thought the dogs might be stolen, the police permitted the group to surround the truck.
Still not everyone was pleased with the demonstration. The AP said an editorial in the Legal Daily newspaper “accused activists of breaking the law and putting animals’ rights over people’s.”
The dogs that were healthy enough to travel have been moved to a property on the outskirts of Beijing where volunteers from Capital Animal Welfare will care for them.
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