Monday, May 26, 2008

Animal Rights in China...

...can be summed up in three words. There aren't any.
Cats and dogs roam the streets. Sometimes they are shooed away with brooms or feet, sometimes they find a handout, once in a great while someone will take partial responsibility for them and bring a meal every few days. Mostly we saw them scavenging, finding scraps of food in the garbage and drinking water from puddles formed when someone threw out the day's wash water.
There is a small trade in animals for pets. In Luoyang there is a row of shops where they sell cats, dogs, mice, hamsters, fish and birds. The conditions in the stores would never be allowed in the U.S. Many of the animals are in cages that are too small, too crowded, open to handling by anyone who comes along, often sitting outside in the hot sun, and with no food or water.

We'd like to have bought every animal and taken it home!

Even these pet shop animals could be considered better off than the cat in the following two photos. She is kept chained to a tree in front of a row of stores where there is heavy foot and bicycle traffic and dogs roaming free. Michael often brings food to feed her. I asked him if the owners minded him doing that and he said, "I don't care if they do or not."

In Zhouzhuang we came across this tiny orange kitten seemingly roaming free outside a small shop. Turned out she kinda belonged to the owner of the shop who said, "she attracts all the foreigners!" Poor little thing barely big enough to walk. We bought some sausage and she attacked it like she'd not eaten in days. We also brought water.
Most of the Chinese walking by looked at us like we were crazy to be so interested in this kitten.
SO tiny!
In that same city we came across a couple who had these strange-looking birds tied to a boat, on display, and they were offering to take photos of people with the birds for money. The poor things were out in the hot sun, panting, tied by the legs to the boat, and not even water to drink.
I snapped a quick photo but the "owners" didn't like that and came rushing over to stop me.
Here is the man coming over to make sure Michael puts his camera away. It's all about making money in China.

In Michael's university classes the students are amazed at the photos of my cats, Jack and Scout, living in my house, fat and healthy, because most have never seen an animal treated as a "pet," let alone as part of a family. Animals are expendable here, and that won't change until China becomes more developed. It's true that portions of the country are seeing amazing growth and prosperity, as anyone who has visited Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong knows. But the rest of China, the major portion of the country for the most part, still live under very harsh conditions.

People can't care about animals until they have enough to eat themselves.

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