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Congress can send the message that dog and cat meat trade is unacceptable
Slaughtering dogs and cats for their meat is pretty big business, with an estimated 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats killed each year across Asia. It's a cruel industry by any standard. The Chinese city of Yulin has hosted a dog meat festival each year since 2010 - with 15,000 dogs killed during the two-day festival at its peak. Horrific footage of terrified dogs and inhumane deaths there came out again this year.
South Korea has the distinction of being the sole country that commercially raises dogs for food and it is home to around 17,000 dog meat farms. When I visited a South Korean dog meat farm just before the Pyeongchang Winter Games, I was heartbroken to see how starved these animals were, not just for food but for human attention.
Opposition to the trade is spreading in South Korea, and with our organization's support, individual dog meat farmers there have begun transitioning into non-animal related businesses. Dogs from these farms have been sent to the U.S., the U.K. and Canada to serve as ambassadors for the millions more who continue to suffer.
There's something that U.S. legislators can do to hasten the demise of the dog and cat meat trade. Last November, the Foreign Affairs Committee approved H. Res. 401, urging other countries to outlaw and enforce existing laws against the trade, and the full House should swiftly approve this resolution. Moreover, as the House and Senate negotiate a final version of the farm bill, the conference committee has one no-brainer on its plate: both chambers have taken a strong stance against the dog and cat meat trade by including an amendment prohibiting it domestically.
As we campaign to end the dog and cat meat trade on a global scale, we must make clear this practice is not acceptable here at home, either. If we are asking other nations to stop this cruelty-and we are-we should make our own formal commitment to stamp out this practice wherever it might exist in the U.S.
It's also true that if we are asking other nations to consider cruelties that result from their food systems, we should do the same. And at the Humane Society of the United States, we do, speaking out against the pitiless methods by which this nation raises and slaughters 10 billion animals a year for food. This is our consistent approach across the range of animal welfare issues. We took on the mistreatment of animals at the circus when circuses were considered family-friendly entertainment, and the treatment of circus elephants was hidden in the shadows. We've questioned the use of animals in cosmetics testing when effective alternatives are available. We aren't afraid to condemn outrageous killing methods in hunting and trapping of animals, either.
In addition to a proposed prohibition on the dog and cat meat trade, the pending House and Senate Farm Bills include other important animal protection measures - to protect pets and families from domestic violence and strengthen animal fighting law. Also, while some of these are still being contested and none are yet final, the 115th Congress has so far maintained prohibitions on the slaughter of American horses, directed a more humane management plan for wild horses and burros, retained protections for endangered populations of gray wolves, and showed a record level of bipartisan support for funding to enforce and implement key animal welfare programs.
Dogs and cats raised for food are just like the beloved companions in our homes-eager for human companionship, and deserving of our mercy. Getting the dog and cat meat legislation over the finish line quickly would be a solid next step forward for animals, a matter of home, hearth, and heart for us all.
Kitty Block is acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and president of Humane Society International.