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Nick Pendergrast. Rescuing Dogs in a Mercedes-Benz: Animal Advocacy in China


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There is a growing animal advocacy movement in China, which has occurred alongside a rising middle class and increasing Westernisation. Recently, Chinese animal activists forced a truck filled with dogs on their way to slaughter off the road and rescued the dogs. In the Western world, this has been cited as an example of growing concern for non-human animals in China. While this is a legitimate way in which to view this event, there are other frames which tell a different story. It can also be viewed through the lens of class and Westernisation. Those carrying out this rescue did so in a Mercedes-Benz, on the way to a hotel resort. The rescue of the dogs can be linked to the growing middle-class in China, who have increasingly being influenced by Western lifestyles including living with companion animals, and values about which animals are deemed food and which ones are not. Owning dogs as companion animals compared to eating them as food increasingly marks divides in China, along divides such as poor versus rich and urban versus rural. This presentation will explore these conflicts, as well as suggesting some implications for animal advocacy in the West.

This talk was recorded at The Australian Sociological Association 2016 conference. You can hear more talks from this conference here:

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Nick Pendergrast. Rescuing Dogs in a Mercedes-Benz: Animal Advocacy in China

  1. 1. Rescuing Dogs in a Mercedes- Benzes: Animal Advocacy in China Nick Pendergrast
  2. 2. Chinese Dog Slaughter  Framing.  HSUS: ‘surge of compassion’.  Wrenn (India):  The influence of Western lifestyles has dramatically increased pet ownership.  Same in China.  Growing middle class = more time for companion animals.  Rural vs urban, poor vs rich, dog eaters vs dog lovers.  Working truck driver forced off the road by a Mercedes-Benz, on the way to a hotel resort.
  3. 3. Dogs and Pigs  Dog transporter Hao Xiaomoa:  ‘I still don’t understand what was immoral about my shipment. People also eat cow and sheep. What’s the difference?’  Piazza et al.:  ‘People live with companion animals that are not much different from the animals they eat (apart from their cultural status).’  Pigs smarter than dogs (computer tests). Scientific Studies on Farmed Animal Sentience. Melanie Joy: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism.
  4. 4. Dogs and Pigs My PhD thesis: Nick Pendergrast, A Sociological Examination of the Contemporary Animal Advocacy Movement: Organisations, Rationality and Veganism, Curtin University.
  5. 5. Western Opposition to Chinese Dog Slaughter  HSUS: many dogs are stolen pets.  Reinforce property status.  Wayne Hsiung:  ‘Relic of colonialism’.  ‘The Indians hold cows as sacred as we hold dogs’.  ‘Undermines attempts by Chinese people, like me, to build common cause with animal activists in China’.  US consumes >2x China meat consumption/person.
  6. 6. Implications for Western Animal Advocacy  Effectiveness of campaigns demonising non-Western countries?  Support/solidarity with Chinese animal activists (Hana Low).  Oppose racism and not just speciesism (intersectionality).  Alternative options:  Promote veganism (moral equivalency).  Pursue more effective single issue campaigns that don’t contribute to racism eg against kangaroo cull.
  7. 7. My contact 