Four Paws - Ending the Dog Meat Trade in Southeast Asia
We all have things we are passionate about. Some of us like history. Others want to read books, play video games, or even do yoga!
As a fitness influencer for many years, I am proud to say that my passion has helped motivate many people to move towards health. However, the most rewarding part about this job is to inspire many people to connect on pressing issues today. This includes looking forward to making a sustainable change and combating issues like the cat and dog meat trade.
I've been an enormous supporter of Four Paws, a charitable organization dedicated to ending the dog meat trade in Southeast Asia for several years. Tony Robbins says the secret to living is giving. That's one of the biggest reasons that I love working with this charity.
Four Paws rescues four-legged animals from human captivity all over the world — from lions and tigers in South Africa to bears in Vietnam and Cambodia to dog slaughterhouses all over the world. It's been my absolute pleasure to work with this incredible charity. Remember Lions Rock in South Africa in 2020! You guys have seen some of the incredible workouts that we filmed, from where it really felt like the lionesses were about to pounce on me while I was doing my basic crunches, to being in Boston and doing a live workout with all of you, which was absolutely incredible to connect right after the pandemic. I'm so excited because recently I have just got an incredible itinerary for a world tour planned for late 2022 so stay tuned!
Today, I'm very blessed to have them on my show. With Katherine Polak, Four Paws Southeast Asia program manager, and Jen Wessel, U.S Team Manager, we'll get to talk about the current situation of cats and dogs in Southeast Asia, their ongoing strategies and projects, as well as ways we can all help to stop this cruel practice. So without further ado, let's get started!
What Is Four Paws?
Four Paws is an international animal welfare organization that seeks to end the suffering of animals. They make this possible by rescuing those in need, revealing their pain, and educating humans on treating them with respect. They want a world where humans show empathy for their fellow creatures and understanding of their needs.
Founded by Heli Dungler, the charity is run by a team of dedicated people who spend their lives working to make the world a better and safer place for animals. Until this day, it has rescued hundreds of animals, saved more from the dog meat trade and other abusive situations, and has opened several sanctuaries in countries where animal suffering is at its worst.
The organization is also continuously working to improve laws that affect animals in each country they’re active in, and continues to educate people on how they can take better care of their animals.
Ten Million Missing Cats and Dogs
When program manager, Katherine Polak, went to Southeast Asia, she initially thought that the main focus of their mission was veterinarian training, and to educate the public on the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. She soon learned that the problem was more extensive than she anticipated.
"We were doing spay-neuter, particularly stray dogs. After that, we took them back to their communities, and then in a week, we couldn't find them. They're just gone" - Katherine Polak
With enough investigation, Katherine and other charity members learned that dogs and cats are being stolen from the streets and their families, loaded into crowded trucks, and shipped like merchandise. These animals end up on street corners, or even inside restaurants, waiting for their turn to be slaughtered for their meat.
The cat and dog meat trade is a revenue-generating industry in Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Many believe that it involves the abuse and killing of nearly ten million dogs and cats every year.
Aside from the unimaginable suffering that these animals go through during transport, the more significant issue is the way these animals are slaughtered. In some of the markets, stolen dogs are free to be chosen from. You can pick your dog, and they kill the dog right there. Some are killed by drowning, hanging, or other inhumane ways.
"None of these methods comply with modern-day standards of companion-animal euthanasia, and it's completely unregulated. This is why anything goes, and it's the most horrific of practices." - Katherine Polak
Four Paws’ Approach to Ending Dog Meat Trade
Four Paws is one of the few organizations working closely with local government, police, and other authorities of some Southeast Asian countries to end the cat and dog meat trade industry. They even conduct grassroots investigations and inspections to gather evidence against this cruel practice.
However, one of their most considerable efforts — and my favorite thing about this organization — is their approach to eradicating this industry: education.
"Getting people educated on the public health scare rabies-infected dog meat can cause is a great way to change their attitude towards this issue. Also, with a growing pet ownership movement in Southeast Asia, many people are starting to see the meat trade as an embarrassing practice for their country that they want to stop." - Katherine Polak
This is what I love about Four Paws: They don't simply lobby, protest, or fight to get the meat shops and slaughterhouses closed. They also aim to provide a full circle of solutions to help people who are actively involved in the trade, like restaurant owners who serve or buy dog meat, and who fear that leaving their business behind and exiting the trade would have a terrible financial impact on them. Four Paws helps these people find new jobs and create a new source of income to achieve a change they can maintain for years to come. Katherine recalls the first conversion they had using this approach.
"The first conversion we did was purchasing a plot of land for a former slaughterhouse owner. He moved to it, and was extremely thankful that Four Paws could give them a better life." - Katherine Polak
Through this approach, they're not only able to support animal welfare, but human welfare, too. It's also the reason why Four Paws advocates are hopeful whenever they have a chance to speak with supporters of this charitable organization.
"Our approach can benefit such an important circle, and our supporters love knowing that. We love knowing, too, that we're making a sustainable change." - Jen Wessel
Another essential thing that Four Paws wishes to accomplish is changing legislation and getting the government involved, so the practice will ultimately be abolished. They're hoping for new structures to be built to ensure that communities abide by the law.
Four Paws is indeed one of the few organizations already taking significant actions towards ending this illegal industry. I am inspired by Katherine and her colleague Jen.
You Can Raise Another “Neary”
In my conversation with Katherine and Jen, Jen shared a story of one of the dogs they rescued. She believes that Neary’s story is one that can get everyone listening.
"We found Neary, who was a Husky mix, in one of the enclosures. When we first found her, she was just staying near the wall the entire time. We would try to entice her with treats, play with her, and pet her. She never responded, and was timid, and just extremely scared. So when we transported her to her new home in the States, we were terrified about what might happen to her. ...A week later, when I checked on her, I couldn't even put into words how I felt, because all of a sudden, this dog that wouldn't let me come near her, allowed me to me pet her, pick her up...When I took her on a walk, she was giving me kisses. It was a wonderful transformation that just affects you so deeply. Now she's happily living with her adoptive parents in New Hampshire." - Jen Wessel
Neary’s story is a reminder of the power an organization like Four Paws can have on an animal’s life. However, it is also a reminder of animals’ ability to change our lives too. When we choose to share our lives with these animals, they become an essential part of who we are and how we love. It is mutual respect for one another's existence and an absolute joy beyond words.
I join Catherine and Jenn in asking you to support Four Paws. None of us may need rescuing, but the animals do. They are so desperately dependent upon us to love them, defend them, rescue them. Through all of our efforts, we can keep helping someone else in the circle. We can save another life.
Put an End to the Dog Meat Trade — and Dog Meat Festivals
Did you know? Dog meat festivals are prevalent in many areas of the world, where dogs are tortured, slaughtered, cooked, and served to communities, believing that dog meat can bring good luck. Four Paws is actively working to stop these horrific festivals both through education, and their full-circle approach that can help protect those who do choose to leave the trade against joblessness or poverty.
I love Four Paws because they have opened my eyes, and hopefully, yours too, about the impacts of the dog meat trade. This charity is very close to my heart, and I've made a personal commitment to support them in their work to address this significant animal welfare issue. We can work together to end this cruel trade.
If you want to help, too, please follow this link to their website. Also, be sure to follow them on their Facebook and Instagram so you can stay up-to-date about the critical work that they’re doing! Help me sign their petition to prioritize animal welfare, too. You may also donate to them. I'm sure they'd appreciate it.
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