08/22/2006 07:58 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Take a Stand Against China's Cruelty to Animals

A massacre took place in late July in the Mouding County in southwest China after an outbreak of rabies. Rather than assessing the situation and dealing with the problem responsibly by, say, implementing a dog vaccination program, authorities ordered the slaughter of all dogs, even those who have never put a paw outside a door.

Not by injection of a barbiturate, which, while reprehensible, would at least have been painless if done correctly. Instead, officials wielding heavy clubs stormed through the streets and bashed the dogs' heads in while China 's next generation, the children, watched. A person's arm gets tired doing all that beating, so, inevitably, many dogs died slowly, cowering in fear and pain as the blows rained down.

Some people took the 63 cents the government offered them to do the deed themselves and poisoned or crudely electrocuted their household pets. Those who refused had to watch authorities club their dogs to death.

Vaccines, education

How could a major international power resort to such barbarism? Virtually every emerging nation in the world has dealt effectively with rabies without slaughtering dogs.

Sensible rabies eradication programs include mandatory rabies vaccines for owned animals, public education (stay away from animals you don't know, call officials when you see an animal acting strangely), high license fees, mandatory spay/neuter legislation to reduce the numbers of stray and unwanted domestic animals and government-run programs of post-exposure treatment for citizens who have had contact with known rabid animals or who have been bitten or scratched by species commonly found to be carriers but who cannot be captured for testing.

Such a program could be established in China as it has been in so many other countries. But it is unclear whether or not Chinese officials are open to these more humane, and certainly more effective, measures. Given that 4,000 of the 50,000 dogs killed had been immunized against rabies and posed no threat at all, one wonders what kind of people are in charge and what motivates them.

Many decent citizens of China advocate for greater protection of animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has had the privilege of working with some of them to document and expose the animal abuse that is rampant there. But their task is enormous.

For one thing, there are no animal protection laws at all in China . Humane people have no legal recourse when atrocities occur.

And they occur with sickening regularity. Clubbing dogs to death in the streets is a common way to deal with animal control issues such as overpopulation. Our offers to assist with implementing humane measures have been ignored.

Abuse in fur trade

Millions of dogs and cats are also bludgeoned, hanged, bled to death and strangled with wire nooses so that their fur can be turned into trim and trinkets. China now exports more fur than any other nation in the world and Chinese fur is often deliberately mislabeled as fur from other species. Chinese fur also constitutes more than half the amount of finished fur garments that are imported for sale in the United States .

Could there be any worse place to be an animal than China ? This won't change unless we support those activists in China now trying to enact animal protection laws and demand, both as individuals and as a nation, more humane methods of dealing with animals.