Tuesday's meeting of the Berkeley City Council featured a very special guest: Oliver, pictured above, a dog whom activists say was rescued from a Chinese dog meat festival.
At that meeting, heavily attended by the group Direct Action Everywhere, a vegan advocacy arm that decries all meat as violence, Berkeley's city council passed a "Resolution to condemn the Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, China, and urging China and all countries to end the slaughter of dogs and enact an animal anti-cruelty law with provisions banning the dog meat trade."
The festivities to which the resolution alludes, held during the summer solstice, are — at least according to my understanding of the calendar — not exactly coming up any time soon. Nor, by my map, are they occurring too nearby. Yet Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington wanted his town to go on the record against the allegedly cruel festivities all the same.
“The continued practice of abusing, killing, and eating dogs is a clear example of animal cruelty,” Worthington said in a report to the council quoted by the East Bay Times. “Millions of Chinese citizens have voiced their opposition to the Dog Meat Festival and have supported a ban on the dog meat trade in China altogether.”
Exploring the subject, the Chronicle talked to a spokesperson for the group Direct Action Everywhere, Zachary Groff. His organization most recently entered the news cycle when activists stormed Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant credited with capturing or sparking a revolution in local and humane food, to berate diners for ordering meat and supporting such a cruel and unusual establishment.
"The resolution reaffirms the city's commitment to animal rights," Groff emphasized to the Chronicle. "We see Berkeley as having the potential to be a leader in animal agriculture and violence against animals." In the end, the resolution passed with six votes, while three members abstained.
As is often the case, Luke Tsai of the East Bay Express had the most valuable perspective on the matter — a full two months ago, no less. "I’m of two minds whenever I hear American activists and politicians make a big show of how horrified they are by Chinese cultural practices like eating dog meat or shark fins," he wrote. "On the one hand, I get it: I like dogs, too. And many accounts indicate that the Yulin dog meat festival goes way beyond the pale, in terms of the cruel treatment the dogs suffer before they’re killed.
"On the other hand," he added, "isn’t there room to acknowledge that different cultures have different norms about which animals are acceptable to eat? And moral grandstanding against Chinese dog eaters — a relatively small percentage of people in China — only helps feed into a certain kind of racism and xenophobia. Ask any Chinese American or Korean American about the dog-eating jokes they had to endure growing up."