Fresh allegations of animal abuse and the consumption of cats and dogs by Chinese immigrants in Zimbabwe have resurfaced as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) revealed this week it is investigating some cases involving two Harare up-market restaurants and a Chinese national over the practice.
The two restaurants in the leafy suburbs of Harare (names supplied) have come under scrutiny after allegations that several carcasses were found at their premises.
While the practice of eating “non-normal” food sources such as dogs, cats and pythons is frowned upon in Zimbabwe, it is common practice in the Asian nation of China. Over the years, the Zimbabwean government’s “Look East Policy” has seen thousands of Chinese nationals coming to invest and work in the country.
Without providing figures, the SPCA says the flood of Chinese nationals has corresponded well with the rise in animal abuse cases, especially the disappearance of dogs and cats from homes around the city or close to where the Chinese immigrants live.
Speaking to reporters this week, Ed Lanca, national chairman of the SPCA in Zimbabwe expressed concern over the abuse of animal rights in the country saying there was a marked increase in such cases over the years.
“Globally, the Chinese do not respect animal rights. A lot of the animal rights organisations worldwide have appealed to the Chinese and also are working with the Chinese in addressing this problem,” said Lanca.
“From our perspective here in Zimbabwe, its two-fold: Although there are no specific laws to prohibit the consumption of certain types of non protected species, it is the manner in which the animals are killed that is disturbing,” added Lanca.
The SPCA boss said his organisation receives reports of dogs and cats being brutally killed for consumption on a regular basis. The dogs are hung from a tree and beaten to death.
Lanca explained that the Chinese believe hanging and beating the dogs induces adrenalin and helps to tenderize the meat.
According to Lanca, some of the animals being consumed by the Chinese immigrants in the country include tortoises, donkeys, cats and pangolins. He said the tortoises are listed as endangered species under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)’s Appendix II, which bans the trade in or killing of such animals the world over.
He charged that some of the Chinese immigrants are coming into the country illegally and go into the rural areas where they entice the youths to procure animals for them.
“We have reports that a Chinese man has been buying a lot of dogs in Domboshawa at US$40 each. As we speak, there is an investigation we are carrying out involving two up-market restaurants in Harare’s low density suburbs,” said Lanca.
He added that there was a lot of pressure on endangered species as a result of poaching to the extent that government has to take extra-ordinary measures to tackle the vice.
The consumption of exotic meats is considered as a status symbol in China.
The Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management, Francis Nhema could not be reached for comment.
However, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act sections 3(i)(d) criminalises any action that “causes any unnecessary suffering and 3 (i)(g) deals with a person who “cruelly causes or permits any animal to be tied up or confined”.
Last year, four Chinese nationals were arrested near Bikita after they were found with 13 live Bell’s Hinged tortoises, which were kept in steel drums lacking water and food. The meat and skeletal remains of a further 40 tortoises were also found at the site.
The Bell’s Hinged Tortoise is listed as an endangered species under CITES’ App-endix II.
Chinese engineers in West Nicholson near Gwanda caused uproar in 2010 after villagers there complained that their dogs were disappearing.
At the time, two Chinese nationals were arrested after evidence was found that they were slaughtering dogs at their makeshift camp.
Some of the dogs did not just go missing. The Chinese workers offered cash for the dogs, considered a delicacy by the Orientals. Local workers claimed they had seen the Chinese buying the dogs for as little as US$10 each before brutally killing and consuming them.