The yearly Yulin festival is about to kick off in China in a month. In case you didn’t know what this festival is about, it’s an ancient Chinese tradition where thousands of dogs and cats are brutally sacrificed for culinary pleasure. With it, hundreds of petitions to stop it flood the internet every year. And although the local government has pledged to stop the practice, little if nothing has been done to put a halt to it. In fact, as I type this, thousands of animals, mostly stray or stolen, have already begun to arrive in overcrowded cages to the city where very soon they will be inhumanly killed and consumed.
For the most part these petitions are signed by people trying to help. Among them meat-eaters who see a value in stopping cruel practices even when they are fully aware that their own tastes kill other animals. My beef, pardon the pun, is not with them. But rather with the cynical and sanctimonious justice-warrior crowd who often, instead of actually helping the cause, love to point out the fault in others and hide their arguments behind the most boring argument ever made: culture.
Just moments ago while surfing the toxic Facebook comment section under one of these petitions, I encountered many a one SJWs who point out that Chinese culture should be respected. An incredibly asinine argument considering the culture of other morally reprehensible acts such as slavery, ethnic cleansing, genital mutilation, or another Chinese tradition that I will touch back on, shark fin soup.
Another equally idiotic argument I encountered is the, actually factual, claim that animals in Western nations are also killed inhumanely for meat. No argument there. It’s true that here in the United States Americans will have consumed approximately 103 billion pounds of meat this year alone. It’s also true that much of that meat doesn’t originate from the most ethically outstanding farms or “farms”, was acquired in the most humane way, and is healthy to consume. In fact, animals such as chickens and cows are often cooped up with little room to move and spend most of their short miserable lives overfed and perpetually breeding. But does that validate the point that because we consume meat, we shouldn’t protect other animals if possible?
That’s a softball rhetorical question. The problem of meat consumption in this case has little to do with the fact that pets in Western societies are food in Eastern societies. It has to do with cruelty. Plain and simple. The real problem is that of misplaced anger. It’s in fact the hypocrisy of inaction.
To the justice warriors I encountered, the problem of Western hypocrisy somehow ranks higher in the list of morally opprobrious practices than the live skinning of household pets. Don’t take me wrong, I abhor some farming practices. Whenever possible I try to buy free-range eggs or withhold meat as often as I can. But for people that have little choice–and there are such people–taking up a cause, any cause doesn’t have to entail a moral emergency. Because if we’re talking blame, no one comes clean.
The argument of culture is an easier one to tackle. Or would be at least if children didn’t have influence in our universities and public arenas. It’s one of those areas where faux activists have failed while proclaiming victory. The problem has nothing to do with liberalism. It doesn’t even have anything to do with Liberals per se. The real problem is selective concern. Social Justice Warriors have almost exclusively infiltrated liberal spaces (widely believed to be the cradles of progressivism) to spread propaganda among people who wish to advance progress in some way but who feel guilty for engaging in any type of behavior that harms, well, anything. Their mantra insists that you should be sorry for anything and everything. Yet somehow these people overlook the fact that their very own existence is somehow linked to some other tragedy.
From the clothes they wear to their modes of transportation, they are also tainted with the blame that something somewhere was harmed for their comfort. The phones we carry were probable made from materials mined in countries that use slave, or child, labor. iPhones for example were infamously made in factories that have suicide nets outside the windows. The shoes they wear, although made in Europe or America, were most likely made by people who make minimum wage. If made anywhere else, probably just cents on the dollar a day. The same people who have to consume cheap meat to survive. Even the silk in their shirts probably came from some unhappy spider whose thread was forcibly pulled to make the shirt. Not to mention the very air they breathe, which is equal to about 2 pounds of CO2 a day. That’s for every human on the planet. You do the math. All of it a contribution to the declining health of our planet.
And yet no one is calling for their banishment to some secluded forest. Or for their arrest or murder. They’re not getting sued for polluting the environment by breathing. No one who sees a value in human action is even calling on them to renounce their possessions. Instead, we support worthy causes while recognizing that more work has to be done in areas where we fail. And just in case you’re wondering if someone is working on those areas, fret not, they are. Someone somewhere is always working on some injustice. Do they need help? Absolutely. But admonishing a helping hand just turns away those who would do something but don’t because they’re constantly reminded they’re imperfect. What’s more, admonishing is failing to recognize that, as Bill Maher would say, we need imperfect allies to win these fights.
Most people in the world wish to do the right thing. There’s clear evidence of this in the campaign that Yao Ming, former NBA player, started in defense of sharks. By exposing to unbeknownst Chinese how shark fin soup (a pricey delicacy in China with no nutritional value) is made, his campaign curtailed the killing or incapacitation of hundreds of millions of sharks who would otherwise be killed solely for their fins. Now, whether Chinese people really didn’t know about the practice or not, doesn’t change the fact that in the last few years consumption has been significantly reduced. Would anyone in their right mind dare to say that the Chinese are hypocrites for saving sharks but not children doomed to child labor? Does conflagrating the two issues do anything for either of them?
I don’t wish to blame these people for exposing a hypocrisy in our system, because they are right, we are all hypocrites. But for some of them this seems to be their day-job. They are delusional in their conviction that exposing everyone else is their way of changing the world. It isn’t. These people are misguided in what it means to take up a cause. For the rest of us it doesn’t mean doing something in spite of our mistakes, it means doing it to right them.
But if they truly want to change consumption behavior, they should start with the powerful agriculture lobbies that discourage filming on their properties to hide animal abuse; or the sugar industry that is not required by congressional review boards to put the daily nutritional value content on products, the cause of which is obesity and a whole sleuth of health issues; or they should just tackle poverty, which is the number one predictor of obesity, and by consequence, animal cruelty.
Again, most people wish to do the right thing. But not everyone has the means or leisure to ascribe to all causes. So we must find causes where we think we can make an impact. We don’t have to always hide behind societal norms to do the right thing, we can do the right thing in spite of those norms. So maybe next time you see someone signing a petition, or donating money, instead of unleashing your sanctimonious tongue or Twitter-fingers, maybe lend a helping hand. Let them know where their concern is better spent, and take comfort in the fact that even though their cause might not do much, it at least brought more attention to it. Ultimately what’s better, trying to right a wrong or working actively to wrong a right?
If you’d like to learn more about the Yulin Festival and how to help please visit these pages and do everything you can to help. Also, if you know of any other method to end cruelty, not just for these animals, but for all animals please share it. Even the exposure helps.