Doing things differently now - ending the suffering of dogs and cats

The news of China removing dogs from the National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources, effective 27th May, was greeted with mixed reaction. Most notably skepticism from some quarters. However, this news is something to be celebrated and supported, given that it clearly means that the sale of dogs for consumption (and, by default, cats as they never were included in the Livestock Catalogue) is now illegal.

Dog meat sales illegal

The newly published Catalogue, approved by the State Council, is a clear signal to the country that dogs are now recognised as friends and helpers of humans and, together with provisions in the Food Safety Law and the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law, sees dogs and cats clearly identified as companion animals and not belonging under livestock and poultry.

Also of note, during the public consultation period for the Catalogue, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs reported that the majority of the comments on "whether or not to include dogs in the Catalogue" were in favour of excluding dogs from the Catalogue. Their statement went on to say:

"Dogs have a long history of domestication. In the past, mainly used for home guardian, hunting and herding; now the use of dogs is more diverse, embodying the functions of pet companionship, police search and rescue, accompanying the blind and so on, and their relationship with humans is closer."

This public statement from the authorities is groundbreaking and, while of course we will inevitably see push-back from the industry as enforcement begins, the decision has been made and dogs and cats can no longer be sold as food.

As Chinese expert lawyer Anxiang later stated to us: "Dogs and cats do not meet the statutory requirements of the Food Safety Law and the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law for meat animal products, and related industries are illegal."  Anxiang went further, stating: "This means that the dog meat black industry chain, which was originally operating under the name of the Animal Husbandry Law, has been clearly characterized as illegal, and all the breeding, transportation, sale, slaughter and operation of dog meat, including the so-called 'dog farms', are illegal."

I caught up with our brilliant ambassador, animal lover, actor and Downton Abbey star Lesley Nicol to discuss the news and clarify what it means for dogs in China:

Interview Between Jill Robinson MBE and Lesley Nicol from Orange Planet Pictures on Vimeo, with huge thanks to Andrew Telling.

Put simply, all markets, slaughterhouses and restaurants that engage in this practice are operating illegally and should be closed down. In Shenzhen and Zhuhai the authorities have gone one step further and made it illegal not only to sell dogs and cats for consumption, but it is now illegal for anyone to eat these animals too and we will certainly be encouraging other cities to follow this example that Zhuhai and Shenzhen have set.

Animals Asia’s Cat and Dog Welfare team has worked for decades encouraging responsible dog management, and fostering this harmonious connection between humans and companion animals in China. Over the course of many years we have worked with a number of deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) on proposals relating to the protection of companion animals, such as the proposed legislation to ban the slaughter and sale of cats and dogs. 

CDW China + Local governmentOur Cat and Dog Welfare team meet government officials across China to work together on improving companion animal welfare.

We submitted four in-depth investigation reports to a number of national and local governments to help departments and officials understand the violations and dangers of the cat and dog meat industry chain. This was after extensive research from one end of the country to the other - investigating markets, slaughterhouses, restaurants and street sales of dog and cat meat. Our efforts were acknowledged by many official replies from various authorities, including a letter from the State Food and Drug Administration in 2017, which mentioned that they would protect consumers' food safety by strengthening supervision and inspection of restaurants and other cat and dog meat sales across the country, collaborate with relevant departments to crack down on the illegal cat and dog meat practices, and increase publicity and guidance to the public, amongst other measures.

Since 2016, volunteers have also worked with local governments around the country to report more than 1,300 dog meat restaurants selling dog meat illegally (unable to produce any of the appropriate licenses), and received nearly 500 responses back. By the end of March 2020, inspections resulted in some restaurants having no evidence of dog meat sales while others either received official rectification warnings from the government, or stopped selling dog meat or closed down - impacting over 180 businesses.

CDW - AR 2019

On the ground, we have been working for decades to underpin the building blocks of this decision. 

  • Encouraging a more harmonious connection with dogs in the community through our Dr Dog and Professor Paws programmes, showing the benefits to those in hospitals, homes for the disabled, blind, elderly, and children in schools, of living side by side with this remarkable species and how much they help humankind.  
  • Working with the authorities on responsible dog ownership management at multiple levels, and advising on rabies control. 
  • Being the bridge between local government departments and NGO’s - and bringing parties together in conferences and symposiums that help to protect both people, and dogs and cats, alike.  
  • Encouraging celebrities to reach out to their millions of supporters in China as they call for dogs and cats to be recognised as our companions rather than food.  
  • Working with over 200 NGO’s on shelter improvement and public education programmes and helping them to reach the community in their area to bond with our very best friends. 
  • Funding "TNR" (Trap, Neuter, Return) programmes for cats - encouraging the local community to live harmoniously with street cats.  
  • Distributing and posting hundreds of thousands of leaflets, posters, banners and circulating our “Cat and Dog Welfare Around Us” film to schools and universities countrywide so the learning can continue remotely.    

CDW CHINA Dr Dog teams in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Nanning visit schools, hospitals, homes for children and the elderly.

Enforcement of this decision will now be key and Animals Asia will remain on the front line working collaboratively with the authorities and local groups with whom we have developed positive relations over these past decades. The mechanism is there to end it over time and as lawyer Anxiang states, "in accordance with the provisions of the Food Safety Law, the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law, the Catalogue, and the Regulations on Complaint Letters and Visits, promptly report to the competent departments for agricultural, animal husbandry, animal immunization, food safety and market supervision, and request law enforcement." As he concludes, "there is no need to argue about the legality of cat and dog meat operations in China, and we should act according to the law."

COMPANION ANIMAL 2019 Animals Asia's 7th Companion Animal Symposium 2019.

So without a doubt, this decision is a cause for celebration, showing that our programmes working from within the country, nationwide, have been supported by the authorities and are now making the difference we had hoped. I want to pay particular credit to Irene, Suki and the team in China who have led our Cat and Dog Welfare programme over these years to this remarkable conclusion.  For decades they have witnessed atrocities that no-one should see -  and this outcome is for them.


Rescue centre upgrades from our Cat and Dog Welfare Team in China - before and after!

Aside from ending bear bile farming in Vietnam, ending the dog and cat food industry was another founding goal of Animals Asia, that we can at last begin to celebrate because of both our team on the ground and the remarkable help of friends and supporters worldwide. Thank you for your faith and kindness and patience throughout this time. 

STATION POSTERS Posters promoting the care of companion animals on display in underground train stations in Chengdu.

While still a long way to go, this latest decision provides inspiration to continue our work to improve the lives of animals and humans alike. As said in my last blog, we have to do things differently now  - and this decision, and the work we have ahead, are nothing less than testament to that. 

As an organisation we’re blessed with fantastic supporters from all over the world and in our lovely Lesley we have an ambassador who is recognised the world over, even by farmers in China as she recounts on The Grey Escape Podcast, making her the perfect interviewer for this deep dive into  the new categorization of dogs in China.


Lesley isn’t the only Downton star speaking in support of Animals Asia. Peter Egan is one of our most cherished ambassadors and most prolific animal advocates. Recently he recorded this lovely video encouraging people to support our work during this difficult time:

We’re hugely grateful to these world famous actors for lending some of their star power to the moon bears, dogs and other animals in Asia just as we’re hugely grateful to you and every supporter who keeps us going to achieve amazing progress in animal welfare.

Gratitude also to the wonderfully kind and talented Andrew Telling of Orange Planet Pictures who so generously produced the videos above. Andrew has been our good friend for years and never passes up an opportunity to help the animals. Thank you Andrew for your #KindnessInAction!

For so many of the world’s challenges today the only cure is kindness.