Culture surrounding animal welfare has shifted throughout Asia,
as more people join forces to create change.
In April, more than 200 animal-welfare advocates, responding to a viral call to action on social-media platform Weibo, congregated at a tollbooth in an effort to block a truck from transporting 580 dogs to a local slaughterhouse. Because eating dog meat remains an accepted--and legal--practice in China, the activists pooled their resources to buy the malnourished and neglected dogs from the shipper before sending them to a local shelter for care. Recently, similar attempts have skyrocketed: An estimated 2,000 dogs have been rescued in the past year alone, NPR reports, and in 2011, activists successfully shut down a centuries-old dog-eating festival after rigorous campaigning.
Opposition to bear-bile farming dominated the headlines for weeks in February after Chinese celebrities such as basketball star Yao Ming spoke out against the practice of collecting bile from the gall bladders of living bears using metal tubes. The cruel industry, which places as many as 20,000 bears in captivity each year to gather their bile for medicine, is the focus of Cages of Shame, a film that chronicles the rescue of 10 bears, set to debut in September.
The island of Taiwan, governed by the Republic of China, has made
an effort in recent years to curb animal cruelty. Late last year,
the country became the first in Asia to introduce legislation
banning shark finning--the act of cutting off sharks' fins and
throwing them back to the water to die. The law was a response to
local luxury hotels' refusal to stop serving shark fin soup, a
traditional meal favored by wealthy Chinese. Up to 73 million sharks
die each year to satisfy the public's appetite for the controversial
soup, which remains associated with opulence in spite of global
efforts to diminish its significance.
Even in a country at the forefront of technological innovations,
animal-welfare standards in Japan continue to lag. Academy
Award-winning film The Cove educated millions about dolphin slaughter in Taiji,
Japan, a village known for producing whale and dolphin meat.
Following the success of the film, mounting concern over cetacean
meat's endurance in Japanese culture led hundreds of thousands of
angry consumers to petition against its sale on amazon.com's
Japanese subsidiary in early 2012. The public outcry was effective:
In March, soon after the media picked up the story, the online
retailer removed the items, many of which reportedly came from
endangered and protected species.
The Indonesian livestock-slaughter industry received a massive
blow in the summer of 2011 after nonprofit Animals Australia
captured undercover footage of Australian cows being brutally abused
at an Indonesian slaughterhouse. According to
ABC News, which broadcast the video, Indonesia is a central
market for the export of Australian livestock, with 60 percent of
the country's cattle ending up in the Southeast Asian country.
Uproar over the footage forced the Australian government to suspend
cattle exports to Indonesia and implement tougher welfare standards.
The largely vegetarian nation of India is no stranger to issues
of animal welfare: In 1960, it became one of the first countries
worldwide to enact legislation prohibiting animal cruelty, and the
country's constitution lists compassion toward all beings as a
fundamental tenet. But some animal-welfare advocates are seeing a
discrepancy between the country's policies on paper and their
reality in practice, and are urging the immediate adoption of the
Animal Welfare Act of 2011. Proposed provisions of the measure
include prioritizing animal birth control and improving the
conditions for cattle being transported within the country.