An animal's best friend

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 September, 2006, 12:00am

According to media reports, more than 50,000 dogs were slaughtered in the first few days after mainland officials ordered mass killings in response to a rabies outbreak. Many of these had reportedly already been vaccinated against rabies when they were killed.

Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was flooded with 15,000 letters from citizens around the world begging authorities to stop the massacres. I went to the mainland with another Peta representative, Coco Yu, to learn more about the dog killings.

In Nanjing , officials assured us that the figures in media reports were inaccurate. They told us that only 100 dogs had been rounded up there so far this year, and all were taken to a local animal shelter.

The Ping'Am animal shelter confirmed the government's claims. We visited the shelter and learned that the dogs are not being killed, and that the shelter is receiving government funding. Additionally, the authorities told us there is no rabies problem in Nanjing, and no need to kill any dogs.

Then it was on to Jining , where the mayor assured us that no killings were being carried out. Aside from Nanjing and Jining, Peta is working with officials from other cities and towns to make sure dog culling becomes a thing of the past.

We want to help them develop and implement a humane rabies-prevention programme. We're starting by providing the government with posters and guidelines for humane rabies control. We're also auctioning off on eBay a handmade card designed by Jackie Chan. The proceeds will go towards implementing the humane rabies-prevention programme.

The heart-shaped card features the Chinese characters for 'love' and 'respect' along with Jackie's signature and this inscription: 'Of course it is our duty as human beings to love and respect each other. But that obligation extends to our animal friends, as well. They are just as deserving of our care and kindness.'

We are grateful to Jackie for encouraging people to widen their circle of compassion to include animals.

I've been travelling for years, but in the past few months my lifestyle has been truly nomadic - even by my standards.

It seems that every time my feet touch Hong Kong soil, there's another plane waiting to whisk me off to someplace else.

I'm currently in Shanghai, where I'm meeting actress Maggie Q to discuss the adverts we're going to shoot with her this month. Maggie is a long-time vegetarian and an outspoken animal lover, and we are thrilled to have her working with us, especially in our vegetarian and anti-fur campaigns.

After Shanghai, I'll be leading anti-KFC protests in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. I was in the Philippines in June, where we fired our first salvo - so to speak - against zoos in the region with a demonstration in front of Manila Zoo. Filipinos are still talking about that, to this day.

Before that, in April, we gave Hong Kong something to talk about when we clubbed a baby 'seal' in the streets in order to show people the cruelty involved in the Canadian seal hunt and the fur industry.

One of Peta's most important recent efforts was rescuing animals abandoned in the wake of Israeli air strikes in Lebanon. I was in southern Lebanon early last month with another Peta representative, taking food to starving animals and transporting these 'refugees' to animal shelters in Jordan.

One time, I arrived at my hotel and learned that three bridges I'd driven over in the past hour had been blown up. It was surreal to be rescuing animals while bombs were going off in the distance, but here I am - alive to tell the tale.

Jason Baker is director of Peta Asia Pacific, based in Hong Kong