Since the destructive Ya’an earthquake took place, the onsite animal rescuers, animal activists, and volunteers have been working restlessly to save local animals. As well, they have been hard at work trying to gain the area government’s cooperation in humane and scientific efforts to prevent any potential after-disaster disease outbreaks. Meanwhile, millions of activists and animal lovers from far away have been working as a strong social supportive force through the power of the internet and social media. People who care for animals in China are taking this opportunity to educate the general Chinese population about what animals mean to humans. After many aggressive and confrontational dog rescues in the past, we are approaching the public with a positive, educational and calm manner. In this way, we are trying to “undo” the evil spin that is often put on the animal rights movement by the government and media. The following are some of the ways in which we are trying to communicate to the general public about how we see animals: real human and animal co-survival stories; live reports on rescue dogs saving human lives; heart-warming stories about pet owners refusing to give up their four-legged friends; and also some light-hearted comparisons between how each species treats one another.
In the rescue frontline, volunteers made available free vaccination services, pet food and supplies to help out any and all locals with animals. They also capitalized on this interaction with the population to educate them about the importance of pet vaccination, humane ways to treat animals, and other things like how big of a difference a comfortable collar will make in a dog’s life.
Overall, I would say that the outcomes of this approach have been a success. We have received very positive feedback and recognition from the general public and from main stream Chinese media outlets as well. Rescuers were able to gain support from local governments in their animal rescue and disease prevention efforts, which was vital in insuring the success of this whole rescue. Volunteers also kept very close tabs on all activity in the area to ensure that no dog massacres took place. There were unfortunately a few attempts but they were not government mandated and were luckily successfully stopped before they could do much harm.
The activists are doing the best to bring some good out of the tragedies that have come out of the earthquake. They are working to not only rescue animals in the affected areas and prevent any cruel or hasty action on the part of local officials, but to also begin what we hope will be a growing public campaign to educate the public about how and why we need to treat animals as our equals.