food / travel

Animal Rights In China: Making The Case To Ban Dog Eating

Animal rights activists have attacked an annual Dog Eating Feast, which asks the larger question over values in modern China.

Dogs being butchered in Guangdong, China
Dogs being butchered in Guangdong, China
Xu Ben

BEIJING — The "Dog Meat Feast" held annually in China's southern city of Yulin sparked disputes this year between dog eaters and dog lovers, which in a few cases turned physical.

By now, it is clear that the standoff over this annual tradition will not go away quietly. Indeed, confrontations over animal protection issues have become a global phenomenon, with both cultural and legal differences.

A series of articles in the Oakland Tribune, a northern California newspaper, chronicled Raymond Yong, a live poultry vendor selling chickens in Richmond Farmers Market who was the target of protests from animal protection activists in 2011. The protesters argued that Yong kept his chickens in squalid conditions, and that the individual customers slaughtered the chicken at home with “unprofessional" methods that cause additional suffering and harm to the innocent birds. The protestors flooded the mayor's inbox with over 1,000 emails and asked him to shut down Yong's live bird stand.

Meanwhile, Yong's customers, mostly of Asian origin, defended the continuing sale of live poultry, pointing out that freshly slaughtered chicken is integral to their food culture, as well as tasting better and being healthier.

Changing values

The debates that ensued led nowhere, and it was ultimately left to the Richmond City Council to vote 4-2 to ban the live bird selling stand. Though the customers of live chicken did not like the conclusion they, they nonetheless did not contest what is ultimately a political and legal decision.

In today's America, animal protection has become an idea accepted by most people, and thus accepted by the public. Social concepts evolve. People used to not question the use of ivory products or fur. Tiger bone, shark fin, bear bile and bear's paw were also considered as nourishing foods while the testing of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals using live animals was seen as right and proper for the sake of human consumption.

Today, most people simply choose to no longer pursue these goods; and even those who do tend to know that other people hold a judgement against them.

Progressive social ideas are bringing new value to animal protection, ultimately making our society more civilized. And when a society is more civilized it is easier for good values as a whole to prevail. Instead, where ignorance prevails more evil deeds are bound to occur.

According to reports, certain Yuling city dog vendors publicly mistreat and maim the dogs and use this as blackmail to force dog lovers to buy the animals at high prices. If proven true, this is a new kind of evil that ought to be condemned by a civilized society. But at the same time, we must face the fact that such cruelty on a dog is only one step away from eating it. Slaughtering the dog for food may be a Chinese "traditional culture," but it doesn't conform to today's values about animal protection.

Therefore, it is clear that what should be changed is the tradition, which in itself will make Chinese society more civilized.

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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