China is well-known for animal cruelty and it only takes a few days living here to see it in person. Markets and grocery stores sell miserable looking animals: fish floating belly up in murky water, live shrimp wrapped up in cellophane and turtles with damaged or even missing shells. But just like in the West, pets are treated very differently than livestock.
My first week in China I saw a large white rabbit hopping between stalls in the market. I took a quick picture and walked off, not wanting to draw attention to in. I assumed that it had escaped from one of the many cages selling live animals as food.
The very next day I found a chicken near my apartment. It was sitting in a hole in the dirt flapping its wings looking dirty. I was considering taking it home to save it but an elderly woman came over to claim it. I felt bad for days thinking about the horrible things that could have happened to the poor animals.
While the animals written off as food suffer greatly, I see spoiled dogs on a daily basis. Poodles especially are popular in China and they are all well-groomed, some even well dressed and they don’t have those embarrassing haircuts like they often do in Europe.
It had me thinking about how humans treat some animals like children while others get brutally slaughtered. It would be hypocritical of me to criticize anyone because I eat meat almost every day. Two weeks after spotting that bunny I realized that I wasn’t only a hypocrite but I also made a racist assumption based purely on prejudice.
On my way out of the house I ran into the chicken near it’s hole with a large bowl of water and some grains that it was pecking it. The woman I had seen with it was watching over it lovingly. A few days later I went to buy some grapes and saw the fat white bunny lying in the shade getting fed by three young girls.
I have since seen the pet chicken and bunny on several occasions, living happily with their owners as part of their family. I have also seen sad water frogs sitting in bone-dry aquariums waiting to be put out of their misery. Then there’s the geese drugged into standing completely still in a tiny cage together with chickens.
Unfortunately, this double standard exists across the globe and we are far from making the world a better place for all animals – not just cats and dogs.