By Pamela Eapen:
China has become notorious in the past few years for animal cruelty. The recent dog meat festival in Yulin carried on, despite numerous online protests to shut it down, with thousands of dogs butchered for it. However, there is another trend involving the brutal deaths of small creatures happening in Beijing – vendors are selling keychains and trinkets in the forms of live animals sealed in plastic bags. Yes, you read that right – soft-shell tortoises, and small fish and amphibians are being placed into water-filled plastic bags and attached to keys, phones and bags as fashion accessories.
The vendors say that the animals are placed into the bags along with “crystallised oxygen and nutrients” that allow them to live for days – but in actual fact, the oxygen within the bag depletes rapidly, and the animals die within hours of being sealed into these plastic vacuums. It is a cruel procedure that doesn’t only kill the animal, but does it in the most tortuous manner possible – suffocating them slowly until they have no air left. Let me put it a different way – imagine being put in a tiny room filled with no food and a limited supply of oxygen until you finally find you have nothing left to breathe in but stale air and despair.
Animals are largely regarded not to be sentient by many people who oppose animal activists, such as Tsinghua University professor Zhao Nunyan who has argued that animal rights form a part of Western Imperialism. However, many cases have shown animals not only to exhibit intelligent behaviour, but emotional intelligence as well. There are many that would argue that there is a large level of hypocrisy when it comes to defending the rights of certain animals over others – there was, after all, a huge outcry over the dog meat festivals in China, but none at all over the disgusting pig and cow abattoirs all over the rest of the world. The solution to this would be to promote the notion of animals as “friends not food” – or, in the case of fish trinkets and fur coats, as “friends not fashion”. It’s still a long way coming, however, and especially so in China where animal rights laws are lax at best.
The trend of animal trinkets is not a recent one, but the problem is. The fact is that despite global outcry, practices like this aren’t ceasing to exist – in fact, they’re growing. China’s lack of enforcement regarding animal welfare laws – which do exist – promote horrific activities like bear bile farming, where the bears are caged for life with permanently open wounds in their stomachs through which the farmers extract bile from their gallbladders. China is also the world’s largest fur farming nation, where in many cases animals are skinned alive for their fur or beaten to death with sticks.
It must be noted that there have been significant successes regarding animal rights in China in the past, such as the cancellation of the Jinhua Hutou dog festival in 2011; and the imprisonment of two men who killed a Kiang, a Tibetan donkey of an endangered species. Although small in number, these successes can and will add up if enough people commit themselves to the cause. Contrary to popular belief, there are huge activist movements within China itself that work to promote and protect animal welfare and rights.
Add your signature to the Avaaz petition to help put a stop to the practice of sealing live animals into plastic bags.