Subject: (CN/UK) China's changing attitudes to animals
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
http://blogs. telegraph. co.uk/news/ peterfoster/ 100036849/ chinas-changing-
China's changing attitudes to animals
By Peter Foster Last updated: April 28th, 2010
I think it
is probably fair to say that Chinese people are less sentimental about
animals than us Westerners.
However a conversation I had this week
with a British animal welfare activist suggests that attitudes in China are
changing fast in this respect.
Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals
Asia, a Chengdu-based organisation that rescues bears from the bile-farming
industry, said she had detected a sea-change in the response to her
campaigns in the two or three years.
One example she gave was a
recent publicity stunt the organisation pulled in Chengdu, burning bear bile
collected from local drugs stores with a lot of local support, including
from officials – something that she said was “unthinkable” even five
There was the famous incident of Hu Jintao intervening to
stop the anti-rabies dog culls of 2007, but that was widely read as a
response to international “outrage”, perhaps with one eye on China’s
international image in the run up to the 2008 Olympics.
currently in the process of drafting its first animal protection law,
although Beijing Legal Evening News reported in January that it had been
‘watered down’ after objections from the public that it was too stringent.
Perhaps the new traction that Ms Robinson and other animal rights groups
are finding in China is a result of China’s increasing wealth – although
there is still a constituency out there that says that animal welfare is
something to worry about once human welfare has been attended to.
What’s more generally interesting from this trend is the growing
understanding among campaigners in China – whether on animal welfare or,
say, the environment – that public support and awareness is the essential
tool for achieving their goals.
It is one of the paradoxes of China
that the nexus of state power and vested economic interests is on the one
hand incredibly strong, but on the other, crumbles amazingly quickly in the
face of concerted attack by public opinion.
Surf the web in China and
you can find daily incidents where an apparently “untouchable” developer,
corrupt official, polluting business is suddenly rendered naked, as it were,
by the collective outrage of the people.
No doubt such incidents are
in a minority, but they do crystallize the fact that, for all their outward
strength, China’s authorities fear nothing so much as the righteous
indignation of the public.
Peter Foster moved to Beijing in March 2009. He was
formerly the Daily Telegraph's South Asia Correspondent based New Delhi from
2004-2008. He is married with three children.