full story and comments:
By Chen Wei-tzu and Jake Chung
Dec 27, 2012
Chu Tseng-hung dreams of the day his group, the EAST, can
disband, for that would mean animal welfare has matured in the
Though the number of animal rights activists in Taiwan is increasing, few
can match the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) in its efforts
to care not only for common pets like cats and dogs, but to protect the
rights and welfare of all types of animals.
accomplishments include promoting the passage of humane livestock slaughter
legislation, better management of animal breeding and marketing, making
documentaries on controversial issues such as Hong Kong's fur trade and how
"divine pigs" (神豬) used in religious rituals are fattened up and abused.
All these efforts have been attributed to the dedication of the group's
founder and executive director, Chu Tseng-hung (朱增宏), also known by his
Buddhist name, Wu Hung.
Chu has spent some time as a monk, before
deciding to return to secular life. Though he sidestepped the question of
why he left the order, citing privacy, Chu was eloquent when speaking about
his experience in getting involved in the animal rights movement.
master said that the issue needed more promotion, so I, along with some
lawyers, entrepreneurs and teachers, started the Life Conservationalist
Association, an organization whose members consisted mainly of Buddhist
followers," Chu said in a recent interview.
To better understand
social activism, Chu also completed a master's program at Shih Hsin
University's Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies.
The association was a major proponent of the movement that led to the
passage of the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) in 1998, with the group
launching a petition that collected more than 100,000 signatures in support
of the act.
Chu worked as the association's secretary-general for six
years before he left and founded the EAST, an organization mainly concerned
with the protection of "economic animals," such as pigs, cows, sheep,
chickens and ducks.
The protection of these animals is easily
overlooked because they are mainly raised for economic gain, Chu said,
adding that it was hard because it meant changing human eating habits.
While Chu places a high value on being vegetarian, he realizes that it
is difficult to ask others to completely change their eating habits, so he
chose to focus on promoting a more humane way of slaughtering livestock.
"The way pigs were killed for their meat was very cruel as the butcher
would simply slash the pig's throat. The pig would be in great pain until it
bled dry, or placed in boiling water while it was still bleeding," Chu said.
Cows were also butchered by using axes, he added.
also feel pain, just as a human being would," Chu said.
However, Chu was
aware that moral preaching would accomplish nothing, so he and four group
members spent three years conducting field research.
slaughterhouses across the nation and compiled reports on the transportation
and killing of animals.
The EAST's efforts drew the attention of the
media. Subsequent media reports sparked a public call for action, putting
pressure on the government to implement changes.
Though it took seven
years, Chu and the EAST finally persuaded the government to establish more
humane standards, such as mandating that pigs and cows either be shot, or
butchered after they are rendered unconscious through electrocution.
However, the group's work does not end there, Chu said.
The EAST has to continuously monitor to see whether the law is
If the government is lax in enforcing the law, then the EAST
would take legal action against it, Chu said.
Another way to ensure that
the law is enforced is to draw on consumer support, he said.
It has been
more than a decade since the Animal Protection Act was passed, and it needs
to be reviewed and amended, Chu said, adding that Britain, Hong Kong and New
Zealand had all made legislative changes to better protect animal welfare.
"Animal protection is not limited to saving them from harm, but also
focusing on their basic needs, which include freedom from starvation,
discomfort, pain, disease and fear," Chu said.
Animal owners also needed
to understand the concept of animal welfare, he said.
For instance, many
pet owners put shoes on their dogs, but that is wrong because the shoes
prevent dogs from trimming their nails, as well as prevent them from
perspiring through their paws, Chu said.
While the owners may think they
are showing their pets love and concern, such actions go against the natural
needs of their pets and harm them, Chu said.
Unlike other animal
protection and welfare groups which have big plans for the future, the
EAST's ultimate goal is to self-disband in about two or three decades,
because that would mean that animal welfare has matured in Taiwan and no
longer needs supervision, Chu said.