For the love of dogs – My five-year-old daughter’s first protest

For the love of dogs

IMG_4455As a young child, I was taken by my mother on peace marches, and I have very happy memories of her painting CND signs on my cheeks and putting flowers in my pigtails.  She would tightly hold my hand as we marched for peace and against nuclear weapons in the mid-80s. It was a very positive experience that gave me the confidence to stand up and speak if I felt something was wrong or unjust. I wanted to share this type of parenting with my own daughter and try and pass on these valuable life skills.

Its important she knows her voice matters and that if she believes something is wrong she should stand up and speak out.

Ruby loves animals, and dogs have always been a favourite, so it felt appropriate to take her on the London Against Yulin protest march to the Chinese Embassy in June for her first protest. I knew it would be a peaceful march in an area of town we know well, and that it was well organised with experienced speakers. I had told her gently what happens at the dog meat festival and she said she wanted to march with me to help the animals.

The dogs are starved, beaten and then boiled or skinned alive.IMG_5225

To explain, at the annual festival in Yulin, China, dog and cat meat are consumed for summer solstice to bring good luck. Disturbingly, it is believed that the meat of these animals (often stolen pets still wearing their collars and tags) tastes better if they are tortured to death – meaning they are starved, beaten, boiled or skinned alive. Many do not survive the gruelling journey to Yulin. The festival is not traditional – it only began in 2010 – but it is barbaric. We wanted to do something proactive alongside the many activists in China to raise awareness.

Ruby was granted the day off school to attend. She spent the day before making her placards, choosing slogans and drawing pictures of the dogs trapped in their cages. Its important she knows her voice matters, and that if she believes something is wrong she should stand up and speak out.

IMG_5356I hope in her lifetime, if not mine too, the world opens its eyes and stops the pain and misery we inflict on all animals we share our planet with, not just the dogs of Yulin.

A few hundred of us gathered in Soho Square on 24th June. Ruby was happy to pose for some photos and chat to various passers-by and fellow protesters, but she came into her own on the march itself and I was extremely proud hear the passion and fight in her voice as she echoed the chants of: “There is no excuse for animal abuse” and “Shame, shame, shame on you”. She really was there for the dogs, fighting for them with great spirit and great voice. With no complaints about the warm summer sun or the walk we strode through London on our way to meet a few hundred more people, her dad included, gathering outside the embassy.

I had a few doubts beforehand whether it was the right thing to take a child of five to a protest, but my daughter is passionate about animal welfare, and for me I feel this should be responsibly encouraged. I am incredibly proud to have a child who cares so much and understands that animals should not be hurt for human greed. To me its no different than taking her to a football match – we just shout for Team Animals!

It is also a chance for us both to feel we are part of a wider community that really cares about animal rights, that we are doing something instead of turning the other cheek or simply hoping it would all go away. During the day, we met some lovely people, all with the common goal to help these poor dogs and cats. Taking her was definitely the right thing to do, and I would happily take her again.

She is the next generation and I hope in her lifetime, if not mine too, the world opens its eyes and stops the pain and misery we inflict on all animals we share our planet with, not just the dogs of Yulin.

To find out more and support the people rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming dogs and cats from the meat trade throughout Asia, please visit http://www.animalhopeandwellness.org

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