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Peter Li: I had two minutes to save four animals from a Yulin slaughterhouse

The faces of dogs and cats I was unable to save still haunt me. It can take you to a very dark place. There was one black dog in particular who looked utterly broken, and I didn’t get to her.

PETER LI: The split-second decision I had to make one day in a filthy, blood-soaked Yulin slaughterhouse back in 2015, will haunt me for the rest of my life. I’d been given the opportunity to save two dogs and two cats from being butchered alive, but it felt like an impossible choice. Then I spotted the ragged white and black cat clambering high up the cage wall. With every step, he meowed louder, as if pleading with me to get him out of there. I’ve visited many dog and cat slaughterhouses in China in my role with Humane Society International, which aims to protect animals worldwide from unnecessary suffering, as millions of dogs and cats are killed annually across the country for the meat trade. They are mostly stolen pets still wearing collars when they are crammed onto trucks and driven for days without food or water to the slaughterhouse. By the time they reach their destination, many have already died from suffocation or dehydration. They are the lucky ones. What awaits the survivors is heart breaking.

They will be beaten and their cage mates will scatter in the slaughter pen to escape, skidding on the floor awash with blood. These terrified, emaciated, former pets will be traumatised by the time it’s their turn to die. It was in one such slaughterhouse I found myself, in the suburbs of Yulin in southern China, and where I was asked to make a terrible choice…. As I walked inside one, I was hit by the stench of death. It was a killing factory for dogs and cats. The floor was littered with entrails, fur and flesh. The instruments of butchery lay around, a de-hairing drum and a vat of boiling water in the corner… I asked one of the slaughter workers if he felt sorry for the animals at all. My face must have betrayed my upset as I gazed at the cats yowling loudly, skinny and sickly, because suddenly he started shouting, saying I had two minutes to pick two cats and two dogs, and then I should leave…

For a second I froze. How could I possibly choose who should live and who should die? That’s when I saw the black and white cat, staring directly into my eyes as he clawed his way up the cage. ‘Let me have him,’ I said to the slaughterman, who to my horror grabbed the cat by the neck with huge iron tongs and began to yank him away. I hurriedly fetched the cat, noticing another one at my feet. It was ginger and white and looked absolutely petrified. Trying not to appear emotional, I told the slaughterman, ‘he’s coming with me too.’ Then I saw two small dogs huddled together in the crowded dog pen, one black and white and his brown companion, wide eyed and afraid. I pointed at them, unable to meet the eyes of the other dogs. I knew it would break me…

The faces of dogs and cats I have been unable to save over the years still haunt me. It can take you to a very dark place if you let it. There was one black dog in particular I will never forget who looked utterly broken, and I didn’t get to her. I have said sorry to that dog in my mind so many times. It’s hard to think about. I’ve been back to China many times since. Thanks to the help of Chinese animal activists, hundreds more dogs and cats have been saved. Their happy endings spur me on to fight for change. As I write this, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Shenzhen has just passed a ground-breaking ban on dog and cat meat consumption, the first of its kind in mainland China. It truly could be a watershed moment in efforts to end the brutal trade, and spare cats like Huru and Yulu, and dogs like Ricky and Tom, from such torment.  SOURCE…


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