Mrs Yang: Global “Symbol of Hope” of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival

I have never been to China, do not speak Chinese, and have not met Mrs Yang (Yang Xiaoyun) in person. Despite this, I was moved by the life of Mrs Yang. As well as being an elderly widow who chose to dedicate her life to saving dogs and cats, Mrs Yang bravely challenges dangerous dog and cat meat traders to save animals intended for the pot. The global media styled Chinese pensioner Mrs Yang as the “symbol of hope” of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Animal lovers across the world wanted to help Mrs Yang help the dogs and cats in her shelters.

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In recent months Mrs Yang has been the target of unsubstantiated allegations from a small number of Chinese and British sources. Mrs Yang has also been at the centre of an online smear campaign through Weibo, Twitter and Facebook.

I am not a charity. I am not a Chinese dog rescuer. I am not getting paid to write this article. I have no vested interests. In this case, I am guided by a moral compass pointing towards social justice. It appears that the fame and experiences of Mrs Yang are being used and abused by others for financial gain. With a limited online voice, the global media should once again be speaking out for Mrs Yang.

Defamatory claims that “Yang is a scam” can be found on Twitter and Facebook. The quality of shelters and standard of animal care has also been questioned. One such source is a UK registered charity whose Trustees visited Mrs Yang unannounced at some point between August 24 and 30, 2015.

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What such people seem to have overlooked is the fact that animals in China do not have the same privilege and protection of animal welfare laws found in the UK. Comparing the Chinese context to the UK shows cultural ignorance, legal naivety, and a troubling imperialist approach to charity. Generally, dog meat trade dogs are not treated like pampered pets before they become meat. If rescued, dog meat trade dogs keep their lives. Money matters when feeding and sheltering them.

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Animal rescue is highly political. Globally, all charities need donations to exist and to survive. On the ground, rescues compete for support. The only way to find out the realities of Mrs Yang, was to speak to independent professionals who met her in person and have with no vested interests.

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I chose to chat with award winning Producer and Film Director MK Pak (also known as Eddie Pak) of MANKIND Films. Between August 30 and September 7 2015, Pak independently visited and interviewed Mrs Yang with his film crew. He had no NGO assistance. When I mentioned some of the allegations targeted at Mrs Yang his response was:

“It sounds like a drama! She is a retired teacher at the age of around 70. She is highly educated. She had a great, warm chatting session with all my Tianjin ladies. We never got a sense of any gangster background related to her. My opinion is she sacrificed her family and friends. She chose dogs instead of humans. She has a good paid retirement, and doesn’t need to sleep in the dog shelter. Her dog cages have heaters. Her room / dog food store does not. I personally think she is honest.”

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Pak continued, “She is fighting towards zero dog meat eating in China. The rescued dogs need adoption and a better building structure for the shelters.”

Another public figure who corresponds with Mrs Yang is Kenneth Chong, co-founder and CEO of Peace Prize Foundation. Chong maintains:

“Mdm. Yang faces many challenges from poor health, lack of support and local harassment from authorities. I have no doubt as to her sincerity to help animals though I believe there could be better ways to go about it. However, under the circumstances in China, she is making the best effort she could to mitigate. To her, it is all about saving whatever dogs and cats that need saving. “A life is still a life.””

Mrs Yang remains resolute in response to smear campaigns:

“I couldn’t care less about the negative remarks on my dog saving efforts. Insulting me by saying I use the donation funds. When dogs arrive at my shelter they will be looked after, fed and have a roof over their heads. This is my assistance to them.”

If you want to see the realities of Mrs Yang for yourself, please watch ‘A PLACE CALLED HOME 流浪的庇护所’ published on October 14 2015, and share widely.

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7 thoughts on “Mrs Yang: Global “Symbol of Hope” of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival

  1. China’s Dog Rescue “Hero” and her “Concentration Camp” of Misery
    A friendly dialogue with Dan Allen and other supporters of Yang Xiaoyun
    Qi Yi-juan
    Dan Allen’s blog describing Yang as a “symbol” of opposition to China’s dog meat trade can hardly be substantiated by some of the latest revelations. Dan has the right to question No To Dog Meat (NTDM). Yet, one would sound unconvincing if he praises North Korea as a “shining example of humanity” in order to condemn dog eating in South Korea.
    “There are two most mysterious places on earth,” one Chinese activist wrote not too long ago. “And these are North Korea and Yang Xiaoyun’s shelter in Tianjin, China.” Why is Yang Xiaoyun’s shelter considered a mysterious place next to Pyongyang? The answer is simple: Yang’s shelter is not open to the public, not even to donors who want to take a look at the dogs they have made financial and material contributions.
    Who is Yang Xiaoyun?
    Yang Xiaoyun, also called Yang Aiyun, is the so-called “dog rescue hero” of China or the alleged “symbol” of opposition to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, as she was referred to by Western media.
    In 2014, a photo showing Yang on her knees reportedly begging to save a dog went viral in China and globally. Unknown to most donors in the West, this photo was not really “authentic.” The young man was in fact walking his pet dog on that day. Seeing reporters around, Yang knelled down all of a sudden in front of the young man and started to shout for the dog. Startled, perplexed, and disgusted, the young man shouted back: “I am just walking my own dog and happen to walk by here.” “And, I am no dog meat trader,” he told everybody around. Yet, the highly theatrical scene of Yang on her knees was captured in photos and videos. A “hero” was born. This photo not only earned Yang global name recognition but perhaps opened the floodgate of donations to her bank account.
    By mid-October 2015, there had been 50 websites in the UK alone fundraising for Yang (Please go here for the sites fund-raising for Yang: Link ).
    There is nothing wrong for animal rescue groups to fund-raise to help animals. Yet, whoever raises money from the public must stand by the principle of operational transparency and financial accountability to fulfill her promise to the donors. Yang herself admitted to a Beijing journalist that she has problems in managing donations over the years, an admission that was interpreted by critics as a way to deflate the rising suspicion that donations received by Yang had been diverted to purposes other than the dogs.
    Never once has Yang revealed to the public how much she has raised over the years. She has however repeatedly claimed that her “rescue” was solely sustained by her own money made from selling two apartments. It is important that worldwide donors stand out to say “wait a minute. Didn’t I wire $100 or $500 to you, Ms. Yang?” Yang’s never giving credits to donors is not surprising. Claiming that she sold her own properties to rescue dogs does help tear apart the hearts of those who come across her “story” for the first time.
    I was a donor to Yang. In June 2015, I sent a check of $10,000 to her. Like many others, I was at that time touched by her words, her poems, and the story lines she has repeated for years to most donors. Yet, never has she disclosed my donation in any way. Four of my friends donated to her since 2009 over 150,000 yuan (close to $150,000 in purchasing power in China). She has never acknowledged the help. Instead, she continues to claim to this day that she is spending money from her property sales. Refusal to be transparent is not the worst case scenario. A shelter that has long been maintained like Hitler’s concentration camp, in the words of a friend who visited her shelter twice in the past, is the worst nightmare of compassionate people around the world.
    According to “Mr. X” who volunteered not too long ago at Yang’s shelter, donations Yang received have been diverted to purposes other than helping the dogs. She hires no workers. A Beijing actress who wired her biannually money specifically for hiring workers was never used for this purpose. The result is a shelter filled with garbage and dog waste, an absolutely filthy environment that a true animal lover would never tolerate. And this filthy environment partly explains the massive and oppressive skin problems on the dogs in her shelter. It also explains why Yang’s shelter has been constantly driven to different places over the years. The smell of her shelter has turned her erstwhile sympathetic neighbors against her.
    Yang refuses to spend money on vets. “I am the best vet,” she was heard saying so to reject suggestions that a vet is necessary to care for the dogs. Some 85% of her dogs had skin problems of various degrees according to a report released by the four activists who paid a visit to Yang’s shelter in September. And, there was no vet supply room in that shelter they visited. A Tianjin activist who has known Yang for many years confirmed Yang’s refusal to seek vet help when new dogs arrived, a time that vet service is critical to evaluate the conditions of the newcomers. The result is mass dog death. “I can pinpoint the locations inside her shelter where dogs were buried amass,” said Mr. X.
    Dog are constantly hungry. “She does not feed the dogs on a daily basis,” the volunteer said. “Once she was leaving for a conference and wouldn’t return for five days, she dumped four sacks of chicken skeletons on the ground and filled four basins with water before locking up the shelter,” Mr. X confirmed a practice that has been suspected by local activists for a long time. “When she returned, the dogs were on the verge of revolt out of hunger,” he sighed with anger. In July, one other erstwhile volunteer jumped into Yang’s shelter and recorded in video hungry dogs dying on the ground next to a headless dog covered with maggots. “The dogs had not been fed for days,” he pointed out.
    “Is Yang really lack of money for dog food?” as many supporters have believed? “She asked us volunteers to send dog food requests to donors instead of spending money she receives from donors on food,” Mr. X revealed. Fearing that Mr. X may reveal her secrets to the public, Yang slapped a stack of cash for him to shut up. Obviously, Yang would rather spend money to “shut up” others than to feed the dogs.
    In January 2014, Yang travelled overseas to Singapore to attend the Asia for Animals Symposium on her “own” money. She arrived at the event on the last day leaving her dogs locked in the shelter hungry. Travelling to Singapore is not cheap. Who was paying for her trip? Donors, without knowing that their money was used to subsidize Yang’s Singaporean trip that turned into a personal leisure tour for Yang having nothing to do with help to the dogs. Apparently, while she had no problems paying for sight-seeing in Singapore, how can she have money difficulty feeding the dogs?
    Whether Yang is a “hero” or a hoarder or an abuser is no subject of rocket science. Yang may vehemently defend her claim that her shelter is a “paradise,” a term she used to describe her shelter. But, her shelter conditions and the dogs’ physical and mental conditions won’t lie. “What we saw are dogs having coats that show signs of malnutrition, dogs with emaciated looks, and shocking skin problems and signs of other illnesses,” said Mr. Chen of Chongqing Small Animal Protection Association, who was a member of the team that visited Yang’s shelter. “One dog has an external injury so serious that it was followed by several other dogs,” he added. Mr. X once saw a dog in Yang’s shelter lying on its stomach for days and with an offensive smell. “When I lifted him out of the cage, I saw under its belly a huge wound filled with maggots swimming in blood and pus,” he revealed. “Yang paid no attention to this poor dog and let him die slowly,” he said.
    There are no perfect shelters in the world. Chinese shelters all have problems of various kinds. Yet, most Chinese shelters are striving to improve conditions. The Home of Love in Chengdu has about 4000 dogs and cats. The shelter is open to the public. It implements vaccination, sterilization and rehoming programs, things never done by Yang. The Home of Love is also an education facility for school children to learn compassion and love for our animal friends. Ping An A Fu in Nanjing also has thousands of dogs that are cared for by hired workers and volunteers. These two shelters both spend large amounts of the donations on workers, vet bills, shelter maintenance, dog and cat food, and other necessary items. “I cannot believe she could starve her dogs like this,” commented Ms. Chen, founder of Home of Love. Ms. Chen also joined the fact-finding team in September.
    Yang’s shelter has long been off-limits to the public, thus earning the “honor” to be the second most mysterious place on earth next to North Korea. In 2014, a Guangdong activist who arrived in Tianjin to visit Yang’s shelter was refused admission. Yang’s explanation was that the road to the shelter was flooded. A Canadian charity never got a response from Yang when the charity intended to send somebody to visit her shelter for adoption purposes. When journalists and others visit Yang’s shelter, only certain areas were accessible. Yang claims that hers is a private shelter and she has the right to deny access to strangers. “I agree that the public has no right to ask for a visit only if Yang has never received donations from the public,” commented Yue Yue, a Beijing activist.
    Yang has a lot to explain to the donors and the public in general. She is known around the world as a “retired teacher.” It is revealed recently that she retired from a factory producing auto parts or the like. Yes, teachers are a respected profession in China. Yet, a blue-collar worker can also help animals. She does not need to “cook” her professional history.
    Until very recently, Yang had claimed publicly that she had 4200 dogs, 3800 dogs, and 3500 dogs on different occasions. No visitors have ever seen that many dogs in her shelter. “She has no more than 300 dogs at any time,” said Mr. X who once was trusted by Yang. Inflating dog numbers has been a fund-raising tool used along side with sick dogs on her lap in an effort to attract more donations from the compassionate public.
    She claimed on Tianjin TV that her sacrifice for animals was rooted in her belief in vegetarianism and that she was a vegetarian herself. The truth is that Yang is a great lover of seafood. “I had dinner with her at least twice in the past and she ordered meat,” said an activist who was with her to at least two conferences. And finally, until very recently, the true identity of a “loyal volunteer” had been hidden from the public. And this is her daughter-in-law known for years as “a volunteer” who helps Yang contact with donors overseas and handle donations for her.
    Abusing the compassionate people around the world for donation that never benefits the dogs is unacceptable and potentially criminal in nature. I appeal to Yang’s supporters to send a team of donor representatives, animal welfare experts, veterinarians, accounting specialists, and shelter management experts to visit Yang’s shelter to do an independent evaluation. To get a balanced perspective, this team can also consider visiting a few other Chinese shelters to have a signpost of comparison or reference to see if Yang’s shelter meets the minimum welfare standards of average Chinese shelters. We will all know if Yang is a “hero,” “a symbol,” “a dog lover,” and if her shelter is a “paradise” as she herself claimed on Shanghai TV.
    No compassionate people should be misled by false claims. No public resources should go to a hoarding situation that is harming the animals. No donation should go to a shelter that is closed to the donors, run without hired workers and vet service, and one that is not accountable even to the donors. No reporters or critics who question Yang are harassed and threatened (Yang threatened the New York Times Chinese language website journalist that she would hunt him down and that she would rather poison all her dogs than to surrender her dogs to other shelters).
    As a disadvantaged class member in a country that favors the rich and the powerful, Yang is a great actor and has amazing survival skills. Dogs are used as a tool to achieve her goal of “getting rich.” For this purpose, she recites poems, exaggerates her sacrifice, inflates the number of animals in her shelter, threatens critics, deceives and abuses donors worldwide, displays sensational body languages when cameras are rolling around, and brings controversy wherever she appears. “How can she survive this long as a nuisance and a boarder?” is the question many have asked. “Well, I guess many people choose to ignore her not because she is doing anything right but because she is nasty,” commented Beng. “Didn’t she once fall to the ground and play dead?” Beng added. Playing nasty has helped her get what she would otherwise be denied in a society whose resources are increasingly tilting towards the rich, the successful and the powerful.
    There are reputable shelters in China that are open and transparent to the public. These shelters strive to provide the best care to the animals rescued from abuse or the dog meat trade. These shelter managers are low key, have nothing to hide. They have no time writing or reciting poems but devote their time and efforts to the dogs. They seldom mention their sacrifice though they invest time and income on the animals. They acknowledge their donors and are thankful for their support. Most importantly, these shelters vaccinate, sterilize, and try hard to find loving homes for their dogs.
    Let’s be compassionate with vigilance. Let’s ask for accountability and transparency. Just as North Korea is no paradise for its own people, Yang Xiaoyun’s shelter is no safe heaven for the dogs.
    Donors around the world, you have the right to go and visit Yang’s shelter to see for yourselves. If you do, please do visit other Chinese shelters as well to see what a descent and reputable shelter should be.

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  2. I have only been to China once so cannot comment on the dog trade there for my short visit didn’t bring me into contact with any dogs. However I have been to Thailand, and Vietnam and know Asian culture, especially the Buddhist culture quite well.

    I have just recently been reading about NDTM fundraising and the debacle around dog rescuer, Mrs Yang. I have not read everything, but enough to know that NDTM know nothing about Asian culture and beliefs. If they did, none of this mess would be happening now. The victim here is Mrs Yang. Her trust of a UK based Charity has led to nothing but stress for this poor Buddhist woman with a kind heart.

    In Asia, the Buddhist beliefs are largely animist, meaning that all things have their own spirit. These people have alters in their homes, or shrines near by where they can make their offerings of incense, food and drink to the Spirits (God aspects of Buddha), for appeasing the spirit and asking for blessing from the spirit. Any event or treatment during a lifetime, is considered a a result of one’s ‘Karma,’ a sort of tally of the deeds one does in life (or past lives as it is believed that Karma follows a person through rebirth into the next life). How a person or animal lives and dies is considered to be as a direct result of the Karma that has followed it through many lives. A Buddhist monk will attempt to improve his Karma through virtuous means and much prayer and attempt to help others on the same journey. Monks are usually vegetarian or Vegan and will do no harm to any animal.

    Unfortunately, like most religions, there are corruption’s and misguided aspects to the practice of Buddhism. One that I have noted widely is that any suffering whether person or animal, is generally seen as a result of ‘Karma.’ Little may be done for them to help alleviate the pain. Generous people will try to help those who are suffering, but it is only to the extent that they have the resources for. Mrs Yang does the best she can for these poor dogs rescued from the Yulin Dog Meat festival. From the photos that I have seen, she loves them too – none of those dogs are aggressive towards her.

    Mrs Yang’s dogs appear to be of a general condition similar to most that I have seen in rural Asia. Dogs live outside, and generally, it is usual to see two to four dogs on a property. The dogs roam free and interact (puppies). To watch these dogs is to see the ‘pack’ mentality and it is easy to spot the dominant animal. Make friends with him and the whole pack falls into line to lock your hand or give you a friendly sniff. These dogs are fed and watered but there is no vetinary care (unaffordable), there is no treatment for ticks, mange (dog form of scabies infestation), or for intestinal parasites. Many dogs suffer wounds from motorbikes, or the angry beating from an owner for bad behaviour. Their wounds have to heal on their own. This is the reality and the dogs don’t have long lives. Many are sold to the dog meat traffickers.

    For Mrs Yang, having to pay $70 to the traffickers to save its life, is just what she must do. The traffickers steal unattended dogs ( many owners just get another if that happens), and also get them from horrible dog farms. These people are criminals operating over borders and they are not kind people. Dog meat fetches a good price and black dogs especially, as the meat is considered to give ‘fire to the belly.’ The traffickers will demand ridiculous prices to free these poor animals. They are dangerous people and Mrs Yang shows much bravery in approaching them.

    Once Mrs Yang takes the dogs back to her ‘sanctuaries,’ (I say that advisedly, because Asians don’t have the same concept of that as we do in the West), she treats them much as her culture would do for a family dog. The dogs will still have pack mentality and that is something far different from what Westerners witness with their own pets. I have no doubt that the dogs will suffer parasites, but Mrs Yang gives them something important and that is ‘Love.’

    I have seen no concept of ‘Love’ from anything that has come as formal statements from NTDM or any others quarreling over this case.

    I do believe that if all the funds donated to Mrs Yang’s cause have not been paid over ( for whatever reason), they should be returned to the donors.

    I also believe that anyone abused verbally during this debacle ( including Dr Daniel Allen), should receive full apologies in writing. No one deserves abuse of any kind. We are supposed to be a civilised society

    Liked by 2 people

  3. God Bless Mrs Yang and please continue saving these dogs and cats from the meat market. Dogs and cats are on this earth to help mankind and not be slaughtered . Please stop all slaughtering of these intelligent loving animals.

    Liked by 2 people

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