Radical Hong Kong animal group Non-Profit Making Veterinary Clinic (NPV) has sparked controversy by inviting small children to walk a mile in caged pets’ shoes – or, more accurately, spend time inside a cramped wire cage.
The aim is to teach children to look beyond the adorable puppy in the shop windows and to understand the dark side to the pet industry, in particular bad breeders who keep animals in terrible conditions and care more about their profit line than the creatures’ welfare.
In mid-August, the organisation had 30 Primary Four to Primary Six students build their own three-sided cages out of cardboard. Half of the kids volunteered to experience the cage themselves, reports Apple Daily.
“I told them they are not allowed to talk, as most animals are not allowed to bark and some breeders even cut their vocal cords,” said NPV Chairman Mak Zhizao.
“In the first two minutes, everything seemed fine,” he continued.
“However by the third minute, the children started to feel bored. I asked them to stay longer, since, after all, five minutes is not that long.”
Mak admitted that he did not ask for the parents’ permission before the workshop, saying if they asked for their consent first the workshop wouldn’t a success… presumably because the parents would have sid “no thanks” to having their children caged.
“The kids didn’t cry, and some even said they understood the meaning behind the project. Some older ones said the animals are pitiful and that caging them is very cruel,” Mak said.
“I asked them whether they think they would buy a pet knowing that their mothers are kept like this [in cages] forever, and of course they answered ‘no’.”
The workshop gained publicity when the photos were uploaded online, causing a furor from protective parents and outraged netizens. Though he prepared for the backlash, Mak said the reaction was actually less intense than he expected.
He said he didn’t receive any official complaints, and even got invited by other schools and organisations to conduct more workshops.
In fact, he announced that he is planning a new “deluxe” experience with other schools and organisations, where lucky children will get to see what it’s like to be tied up and leashed inside a “puppy mill”.
“I want them to understand that dogs doing tricks or dolphins performing shows are for the sake of making us happy,” said Mak.
“It is like a circus. Both are disgusting in nature.’”
“At the same time, we are concerned about our ‘image’. Therefore, we will only use cardboard cages and not real ones.”
He added that the workshop does not only serve to educate the next generation, but also to challenge adults’ perspectives about animal rights, and to make them think about whether or not animals should serve humans (e.g. as police or guide dogs).
“Why can’t a wild boar live peacefully with us and walk around in the same areas that we do?” Mak asked.
“Whenever I give talks in schools in Shatin and Tai Wai, I would tell them this habitat belonged to the boars at first. And now they’ve invaded the animals’ habitat they don’t allow them to roam free.”
Mak’s ultimate hope is that pet shops cease to exist. He pointed out that in Germany and Australia, most people prefer adopting animals rather than buying them from a pet shop.
“They may think my actions are very radical,” the chairman said.
“There was the liberation of black slaves and women, and now we are trying to liberate animals.”
We’re behind your cause, Mak, but maybe don’t compare black people and women to dogs next time…