Carpet of Cruelty

29th May 2003

An eerie silence hangs over the vast courtyard in the centre of the small Chinese village of Huangchen. To the untrained eye, the ‘produce" neatly spaced out on its stone floor looks no more sinister than the remnants one might find in any garment factory.

But look more closely at the ordered items awaiting distribution to European fashion houses and wholesalers, and the full, horrific truth becomes apparent.

This is a scene of canine carnage; a mass grave, if you will. For every one of these multi-shaded pelts was once a healthy dog.

Just hours before this disturbing picture was taken, the courtyard was home to several hundred barking, tail-wagging animals.

Then, with a brutality that beggars belief, each one was slaughtered so that their flesh could be sold as meat and their coats made into handbags, shoes, car-seat covers and briefcases.

One by one, dogs are taken into a filthy shed where staff using long-handled tongs restrain each animal around the neck. A second person then strikes the dog over the head with an iron bar before plunging a knife into its throat, drawing it down towards the heart.

The slain beast is then skinned, and its meat freshly sliced, chopped and parcelled up for distribution to local restaurants. Stewed, fried or minced – and served with lots of chilli – dog meat is a delicacy in the Shandong province of northern China, where it is sold for the equivalent of £1.70 a kilo.

The Chinese believe that dog meat holds special medicinal properties. It is thought to benefit the internal organs and is considered to be particularly good for the elderly and infirm.

Even the dogs" bones and teeth are sold. The teeth are exported mostly to Thailand, where they are mixed with ivory and sold as if they were pure ivory. Bones, meanwhile, are crushed and used in animal food.

Only the dogs" feet are deemed virtually useless, left rotting in a dump on the edge of the village until they are boiled down to be turned into glue.

But it is the hides that are most valuable – selling at around £3 a piece to local factories, where assembly lines transform them into a range of fashion accessories, many of which end up on sale in the West.

Once skinned, the pelt will be washed in industrial machines and left to dry in the sun for several days before being marketed.

A dozen top-quality skins can be sewn into one coat, and sold for around £50. It is the dogs that have been raised as pets whose pelts raise the highest prices of all.

Because these animals have been allowed to roam free – sleeping outside the family home in a pig pen – their fur is deemed to be of higher quality than the dogs raised in factories.

As a result, most families in the area raise several dogs – some up to 100 – to supplement their income.

Every year, thousands of St Bernard puppies are smuggled into China to be bred with the local dogs, in the hope of producing bigger, meatier animals, with thicker coats.

Then in spring, just before the moulting season, dogs are sold to local businesses, like the one pictured here, to be killed and skinned.

Huangchen village is believed to be the largest fur-trading market in China, possibly the world.

This factory is owned by four brothers who previously processed malt for food, but who switched to selling dog meat 20 years ago, later branching out into selling the hides.

The brothers are a familiar sight in the region, gathering the dogs in motorbikes with baskets on the back, then slaughtering them altogether when they have a big order.

Today some slaughterhouses are reported to make £500,000 a year. It is a huge sum by any standards, but all the more obscene when set alongside the cruelty and suffering they mete out to man"s best friend.

The Cruel Plight Of The St Bernard
“Beijing Youth Daily" of September 16, 99:

Good news, new food for the dinner table before National Day.

With the improvement of living standards, people’s diet is changing. Dog meat is becoming a favorite. Due to the increasing market demand, the dog breeding industry is expanding in Beijing. Male Great Dane, St. Bernard, Tibetan Mastiff are chosen to be imported by Beijing Hong Ding Breeding & Development Co to hybridize with Mongolian dogs to create a new generation of meat dogs. The company set up a new breeding facility in KangXi grassland providing estimated 100"000 meat dogs per year.

Dog meat is fine, tasty and can warm the body. In order to guarantee the quality and hygiene of dog meat, the Beijing Hong Ding Breeding & Development Co. takes the following measures: individual breeding, central slaughter and market. The slaughter facility is in the city of Chanping, killing 100"000 a year, Products include marinated dog meat and dog ribs. The company also provides stud dogs and offers job opportunities for laid off workers.