A video that recently went viral online shows illegal slaughterhouses in some counties of East China’s Anhui Province injecting about 60 kilograms of water into each ox in order to increase their weight before slaughtering and selling them.
It is reported that the torture of the animals can last as long as 12 hours before they are killed. Some of the cattle are in so much pain that they kneel in tears. Despite the fact that there is nothing wrong with using animals for human purposes such as food and research, it should be done in a way that minimizes animals’ suffering and pain. Forcing water into the body of cattle for profit is surely against such a value of modern society. Moreover, according to China’s Food Safety Law amended in 2015, the barbaric practice is illegal because “water-injected beef” with causative agents from water may endanger public health.
Frankly speaking, the Anhui incident is not an isolated case in China, and animal abuse has turned out to be a rampant and serious problem in the country for a long time. According to media reports, some wanton Internet platforms recruit so-called online celebrities, mostly young girls, paying them to kill animals, such as rabbits, tortoises, sheep, oxen and donkeys, in livestreaming videos in especially cruel ways such as castrating, stampeding or squashing them to death.
The making and selling of such violent videos have already existed for many years and formed a grey and profitable “industrial chain” in China. On some platforms, customers can even order special services. For example, a tailor-made video of killing a donkey will cost as high as 15,000 yuan (US$2,174).
Cruelty to animals must be stopped in China now because it is totally not in line with our ethics and code of conduct. Torturing animals, a behavior known as zoosadism, is considered one of the signs of certain psychopathologies, including antisocial personality disorder. U.S. psychological studies have provided evidence of a link between animal cruelty and violence towards humans, which means people convicted for animal abuse are more likely to be violent to humans. Thus, American courts often keep records of who have been cruel to animals as hints about whether or not they will likely perform violence against humans thereafter.
Moreover, children are especially vulnerable to the impact from such violence. Due to their reasoning limits, children frequently exposed to violent videos could have an increased chance of acting aggressively in the future. If children have been subjected to violent images and videos that they shouldn’t have seen, it will also lead to desensitization, which means their response to a stimulus will diminish after repeated exposure.
Many foreign countries use animal welfare laws to govern acts of cruelty toward animals. The United States stipulated its Animal Welfare Act as early as in 1966 and has since amended the law several times to meet new demands. In the States, killing animals in cruel ways and spreading such videos online is a felony. In February 2016, a perpetrator in Houston, Texas was sued by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the world’s largest animal rights organization, and sentenced to prison for 50 years for doing so. Killing pets is also unacceptable in the country. In May 2017, a 24-year-old Chinese man surnamed Feng, who held a master’s degree from Cornell University and worked as a financial analyst in the United States, was imprisoned for 30 days and later repatriated to China after killing the pet dog of his girlfriend.
In China, there are so far no laws governing animal abuse. However, government organs and law enforcement bodies cannot turn a blind eye to such barbaric actions. At least, we can now use China’s Cyber Security Law to deter those illegal Internet platforms and punish wanton wrongdoers.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)