Last night we were at The Hub, a co-working place just down the road from our home in An My Village. Three local Hoi An entrepreneurs, two Vietnamese and one Brittish woman presented themselves and shared their business experiences with about 25 (mostly) expats. The first one up was Emma, who together with her Vietnamese husband Jack, founded and operates Jack’s Cat Café, a combo charity organization, coffee shop and animal shelter, entirely dedicated to the well-being of cats. Listening to all of the challenges the couple has overcome made for a very inspiring talk. And to hear Emma explain why they still need to keep a relatively low profile because of an overshadowing threat from the illegal cat meat trade, was shocking. Avoiding disingenuous caretakers and attracting genuine foster homes for their cats seems to involve a rigorous vetting process.
Though I’d heard of how there are restaurants here that offer dog on the menu, I was completely ignorant about the cat meat trade. I did know about its existence in China, where, if it crawls, walks, flies or swims, it’s considered both edible and often desirable. This is particularly true when myths about how specific bodily organs or fluids contain aphrodisiac or health-curing properties are afloat.
I love animals. Always have. Most are fascinating creatures and I’ve had the privilege to experience some of the planet’s most majestic species up close, including great white sharks, wild lions, and Arctic moose.
Though I definitely don’t support torturous treatment of animals in China or anywhere else, I do understand that geographically, we place widely disparate emotional values on domesticated animals – usually depending on our cultural perspective. While listening to last night’s first presentation of the cat charity/café and the horrendous meat trade the founder is crusading against, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the evening’s collective had eaten beef, pork or chicken that very same day – and the likelihood that also those poor animals had lived and died in circumstances probably not too dissimilar from the fate of creatures caught in the cat and dog meat trade.
This is quintessentially why my family and I stopped supporting the meat and poultry industries several years ago.
Why would or should we care less about how a pig is (mis) treated than you would care about the welfare of a dog? Why do we rank the planet’s animals so differently? Does a cat inherently have more worth than a chicken? I’m obviously all for supporting the fight against animal cruelty. But there’s a level of hypocrisy that clearly needs to be discussed.
The picture above? Snail eggs on on a rice field near our home in An My Village, Hoi An, Vietnam.