Animal Cruelty in China: Far from the End

Animal Ring Toss

 “Tao Huan” is a traditional Chinese version of Ring Toss Game in which the pegs are replaced by different objects ranging from toys to kitchenware. The players rent the rings and could take away whatever is looped. I had always reckoned it to be a benign entertainment until last week, when I saw a Ring Toss Game on the food street in Jiayuguan (a small city in northwestern China) being rendered into a tortuous circus show–encaged rabbits and parrots were shamelessly used by the owner as pegs, along with rubber toys and plastic plants. Behind them was a wall of balloon targets at which people shot plastic bullets and win money. The loud noise made by the gun and the blasting sound of balloons startled the parrots every time, making them flapping their wings in the tiny cages in vain, again and again. The rabbits in the cages could hardly move around–lying on their urine and a few pathetic straws of grass, they were frightened and piteous.

Animal Ring Toss in Northwestern China


Appalling Facts

Game as such is only one tip of iceberg. In 2010, there was a widespread of videos of cat and rabbit abuse on the internet in China. A four-minute-video clip featuring a young woman trampling on a rabbit under her high heels and crushing the creature to death received 500,000 hits on the first day it was launched. Copycats of such cruel videos were soon rife, and victims of such cruelty included fish, insects and even cats. Angry netizens launched a “human flesh search” and discovered abusers’ identities, and consequently the abusers, some of them reported on being paid to crush animals, had to turn to police for protection.

Hard Task for Animal Right Activists

Though many people are willing to respect and care for our furry friends, their intention and efforts are often at odds with the commercial interest of some, and involvement of law enforcement hardly ameliorate the situation, if it does not make it worse. In 2012, a group of animal right activists stopped a lorry carrying 500-plus dogs to dinner tables to Northeast China. The animal lovers had to pay the lorry driver $18,000 after a long negotiation, with the police involved1.

Die-heard traditional beliefs one contributor to animal cruelty in China. In some parts of the country, animals are regarded as anything from traditional Chinese medicines to sources of proteins but human companions or lives of equal rights. The bears’ bile has been viewed as a valuable ingredient in Chinese medicine for 2000 years. In bear farms in china, thousands of bears are captured and imprisoned in cages too tiny for them to stand up or turn around. A metal tube used to extract the bile from the bears’ gall bladder would twice a day be forced through a wound that would never recover. The bears are usually cuffed as they would try to end their own miseries by violently killing themselves. And such a tormented life would last between five to ten years until their biles go dry, and then they would be abandoned to starvation and illness2. In the Northeastern part of China, dog meat is a luxury dish only served in high-street restaurants. Behind these traditions are economic interests that are hard to ignore.

Still a Long Way to Go

But the biggest hurdle for animal right protection is that China had no law protecting animals that are not yet endangered . In 2009, the animal cruelty legislation was drawn up in consultation, but three years later it is still not effected.

Old traditions die out with the old generation, and new rules are required to make the country a better place for animals. Without legitimate supports, protection of animals is a sorrowful and beleaguered course, and  we will continue seeing monkeys being beaten on the street for not putting a good enough show to passersby, cats being crushed under high heels for more hits on the internet, and minks being de-skinned while still alive for a fancy fur coat.


1. BBC News – Chinese dogs rescued from dinner table. Available at: Accessed August 26, 2012.

2. Haikui H, Zhi L. Bear farming and bear conservation in China. … SYMPOSIUM ON THE TRADE IN BEAR PARTS. 2006.