An incident of burning dogs in the city of Nanjing drew nearly 17000 comments from web users on Thursday and triggered a huge debate about dog rights.
The behavior under fire took place on Wednesday, when a couple of people poured gasoline on two puppies and their mother and set their cave on fire. The dogs were homeless and had stayed for a few months in a corner of a garden in these people's housing compound. One of them said the dogs’ bark disturbed people’s sleep, local newspaper reported.
A witness tried to stop the fire, but one puppy was killed. Residents later called police. Messages on online forums said the surviving dogs were taken care of.
Condemnation of the burning dominated online comments on this incident. People called the act cruel, utterly inhuman or barbarous. Some say those who set the fire could have gone to jail if they were in some other countries.
“You could not like dogs, you could even hate them, but you have no right to take their lives because of your discomfort,” one comment read.
Not long after the debate broke out, a post appeared on tianya club forum written in the name of an old lady, who claimed that the dogs’ barking had forced her to increase the dose of her sleeping drugs but still kept her awake at night. The poster admitted that it was her neighbors who tried to burn the dogs to help her and that she was sorry about their behavior.
“It is a good thing that people have more awareness of animal protection and animals now have higher status,” the poster wrote. “However, please consider here: animals have their rights, but shouldn't people also have their rights as human? When human rights were hurt by animals, whose rights deserve protection more?”
Nevertheless, other web users questioned the true identity of the poster and still could not forgive the burning.
“If [you] think the dogs are disturbing, [you] could contact people at animal protection center to take care of them, or find someone to adopt them. Why use such cruel method to burn them?” One post responded.
There are also a handful of comments that do not take the burning as such a big deal and insist that China needs to focus on problems of people instead of dogs and cats.
“Those who think about dog rights, have you thought about human rights?” One commentator asked, and listed a series of threats homeless animals could bring to human, including carrying disease, barking at children and dropping excrement everywhere.
A harsh debate for animal rights like this was unimaginable in China just a couple of decades ago, when most Chinese people were largely concerned of their own livelihood. Material shortage and relatively poor living conditions left people with little heart to care about how animals around them were doing.
Recent years have seen more and more Chinese people, mostly affluent urban residents, keep pets like dogs and cats. Animal hospital and shelter have been set up in many places, although such resources are still far from abundant. Schools also carried out the so-called “love education,” instructing children to love small animals and respect lives.
Local news report on the incident