When I first heard about the dog meat trade in Asia, I was horrified. I knew that certain cultures ate dog meat, but the means by which they acquired the meat was unknown to me. In many cases, people’s pets are stolen and sold in the black market. The dogs are then brought to one of the many slaughterhouses where they are tortured for at least two days before they are killed for consumption. There can be up to 300 dogs that are tortured and killed in one day per facility. The dogs are tortured because of an age-old belief that the more adrenaline the dogs produce before death, the more tender and desirable the meat is to those who eat it.
After a lot of research into these atrocities and working directly with a rescue that saves dogs from actual slaughterhouses in China, Korea, and Vietnam, I decided that this was a cause I had to champion. The more images I saw and stories I heard, the harder it was for me to sleep at night. My own dogs are treated like a part of my family. I love them as if they were my children.
I couldn’t believe that such cruelty still existed in the world toward innocent creatures that have neither a voice nor a way to defend themselves.
I had been practicing Buddhist meditation for years, which taught me to accept suffering as a part of life. It also taught me to have compassion toward everything. “Everything” includes those who are inflicting the harm because even those people are suffering. But in this case, I refused to accept that these people were worthy of any sort of compassion. The suffering and helplessness of these dogs was too overwhelming.
My world was turned upside down. I became angry at the fact that God or whichever higher power that supposedly promotes peace, simultaneously allows for such horrific cruelty to also exist. Being a part of a species that was capable of this felt shameful to me.
While going through this spiritual crisis, I had to do something. I donated to the cause, volunteered at my local rescue whenever I could and spread the word. If I couldn’t go over to Asia and stop this myself, I was going to bring awareness to this over here in my own social circles. I continued to meditate on the feelings of anger, hopelessness and helplessness that I felt.
There was something I heard from one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s disciples that helped me get through this. He said that everything in this world fights to have balance.
Where there is suffering, there is also just as much beauty and love. We must be vulnerable to both.
Looking around, I observed the beauty and serenity of nature and the other animals living in peace. I saw the hundreds of good-natured humans that were willing to help in this cause. Immersing myself in the love of my own pets and family kept me sane. I needed to do what I could to protect myself so that I was useful to the cause. That meant not always forcing myself to see the carnage and the violence in videos and photos, but to know it existed and do something about it. Becoming open to those graphic images and stories were necessary in the beginning. There was no pretending they didn’t exist. It moved me to take action.
The most important thing I learned is that compassion alone isn’t enough; we must take action and reach out in order for any change to occur.
Living in a world with such contrasting and extreme events pulls on mankind’s emotions so that we are forced to do more than just feel. Everything has an opposite. What is love without hate? It is the hatred and rage I felt that ultimately motivated me to give love and aid to all rescue dogs within my reach.
This transformation affected the people and animals in the world around me. Now if only that change could take place in everyone’s circle of life, imagine what a world we could live in.
For more on the dog meat trade and how you can help, here are some sites you can visit:
Also by Crystal: How Fear Became My Best Friend
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Photo: Marc Ching