A dog's best friend
Updated: 2012-09-07 07:46
By Li Aoxue (China Daily)
Lawyer campaigns to protect animals from cruelty and give them a better life
When Lu Xun was 8 years old, he suffered from a recurring nightmare. In his home village in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, a pig was being led to slaughter.
"I remember the horrible screaming from the pig as it knew it was nearing its end," Lu says. The gruesome scene never left his mind and he resolved to do something to improve the lot of animals.
Now 47, the lawyer and businessman has set up The Benevolence Foundation, what he calls China's first fund dedicated solely to the welfare of its animals.
The move complements his efforts to promote legislation to improve the lives of animals in China.
"Unlike humans, animals cannot speak for themselves if they are suffering from maltreatment. We need to establish laws to protect them," Lu says.
Animal welfare and protection laws are present in many countries, and China, being the world's second-largest economy and with rising international influence, should also have such legislation, he says.
"To some extent, the way a country treats its animals reflects the standards of civilization in that country. China in this aspect should improve itself," Lu says.
Lu invested 2 million yuan (250,000 euros) to set up The Benevolence Foundation in January 2010 and two months later the foundation was invited to participate in the International Forum on Chinese Legislation for the Protection and Management of Animals in Beijing.
In April last year, the foundation made the headlines when it helped save 280 dogs being sent to restaurants in Changchun, Jilin province.
In July this year the foundation signed an agreement with Yuxiangyuan Holding Group, one of the country's biggest beef producers, which sells meat to Walmart and KFC, to use modern and humane equipment to process its products.
"When old and outdated equipment and methods of slaughtering animals are used, it is not only the animals that suffer. Toxic substances might also find their way into products and into human consumption," Lu says.
Many slaughterhouses in China do not use modern and humane equipment, as these can cost 10 times more than older machinery, he says.
To persuade Yuxiangyuan to update its equipment, Lu says, his foundation donated one-quarter of the funds needed for the move.
About 100,000 cattle are processed for beef at Yuxiangyuan every year and the donation is worth every penny as millions of the animals will not have to suffer needlessly for the next decade, Lu says.
Lu plans to raise public awareness of the benefits of such meat processing through channels like advertising in subways.
aWhile government support for more animal protection and welfare is also very important, getting it can be tough, Lu says.
Some have also questioned his moves, he says. "Some people do not agree with what I've done. They say in China there are lots of people who are suffering from poverty, and you are creating a foundation for animals?"
But Lu explains that there are many charities for people but few for protecting animals.
When he was studying in Britain in 1999, he also experienced the harmony of animals and humans living together.
"Sometimes there were foxes appearing at the courtyard of my house and my British flat mate would come out of the house to feed these animals," Lu says.
"Foxes there are not afraid of human beings and humans do not need to be afraid of being attacked by the animals."
Lu also remembers his walks in Hyde Park in London, when he took the time to feed squirrels.
"Unlike in China, these animals are not afraid of human beings because if they are being treated well, they will not show any hostility toward you. Animals have feelings too."
Lu was born into a rural family in Shijiazhuang. After his brother was involved in a civil suit in the early 1990s, Lu read up on the law to help his family win the case.
In 1997 he passed his law exams and in 1999 he acquired a law firm in Beijing and started his practice.
Lu says he admires philanthropists such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates because they "give to benefit others".
The Chinese philanthropists Yu Pengnian, 88, a real estate tycoon, and Chen Guangbiao, a businessman from Jiangsu province, are also Lu's role models.
"Chen's high-profile ways of performing charity might have generated some controversy but we should still applaud what he has done to help people," Lu says.
Before setting up his animal welfare foundation, Lu took part in other charities in China, including those that helped children who could not afford to go to school and the elderly who did not have adequate housing.
A year ago, Lu also also donated 200,000 yuan to Somalia after hearing that the country had suffered one of its most severe droughts in 60 years.
"I'm glad I can help. When you do things that touch others, you are also touched. As a child, I could do nothing about it when I saw animals being slaughtered terribly on the farm.
"But now I am capable of doing something to improve their situation."
(China Daily 09/07/2012 page21)