By Luan Xiang
BEIJING, April 23 (Xinhua) -- A total of 34 Chinese cities with a combined population of nearly 300 million took part in an unprecedented simultaneous pet adoption day on Earth Day weekend, promoting the adoption of rescued stray animals.
The live streaming of China Pet Adoption Day events in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shanghai, Tianjin and Xi'an was watched by 562,000 people.
From Urumqi in the far northwest to the subtropical Fuzhou on the southeastern coast, people gathered to raise awareness of animal welfare and to help strays find loving, permanent homes.
SHARING OUR HOME
Taking advantage the country's online population, Pet Adoption Day events was also an online event with people watching on their cellphones and computers.
"I have never heard of a similar event being held on such massive scale", commented Mariya, Russian animal welfare expert in an interview with Xinhua.
"I think it's evidence that Chinese society is more aware and more open to accept pets as family members," she said. "And it's not only happening in first tier cities but also smaller ones.
"Also it's a sign that there are more people who care about pets and do rescue work in a more structured and professional way."
Sun Quanhui, campaign manager and senior veterinary adviser with World Animal Protection said, "Planet Earth is not only home to humanity but also a home that we share with other animals. It is mankind's duty and important in a civilized society to treat animals kindly."
As China's population becomes more prosperous, pet ownership has increased dramatically, with problems, such as pet abandonment and cruelty, also growing.
"International experience has proven that promotion of pet adoption can reduce the stray population and improve the sense of responsibility of both pet owners and society as a whole," said Sun.
"In recent years, more and more adoption events have taken place all over the country, which indicates an awakening of the Chinese public consciousness to animal protection. Adopting a pet instead of purchasing one has been gaining a wider acceptance," he noted.
"It is a good thing that China promotes adoption of animals", commented dog lover and animal welfare activist Fantasia Chen with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, who praised the campaign as "really amazing" and expressed her admiration for the volunteers who made the event possible.
Surprised by the number who watched the live streaming, Chen said, "I think I'll advise HKDR(Hong Kong Dog Rescue) to do something similar for their shelter, so that more people will know that the dogs really need a better home."
"It surely sounds super sweet and I have no doubt that it must have been the result of great efforts", said American designer Edward Dumpe III, who has been working on designs for stray animal shelters in Beijing's hutongs.
"I think it is a good step in the right direction, and should be taken as evidence that Chinese society is becoming more aware of stray animals who deserve to be taken care of and treated with respect", he said.
In the U.S. City of San Francisco, a law was passed earlier this year to prohibit pet shops from selling dogs or cats unless they came from animal rescue organizations or animal shelters.
"But even in the States, a nationwide adoption event involving 30 million people is unheard of," said Dumpe. "More needs to be done to encourage people to think of pets as family members rather than toys."
IT MUST BE A RECORD
More than one million people follow the humorous daily updates of blogger "Rabbit-eating Carrot" about her two cats, "Not Three" and "Not Four," who have inspired memes all over China's social network.
"The most important thing is spreading the word about pet adoption," she told Xinhua. "People don't adopt companion animals in China, not because they don't want to, but because they don't know about the possibility."
In real life, "Rabbit-eating Carrot" is a fashion designer who has created garments embroidered with slogans like "Please adopt a pet" and the images of her celebrity cats. All profits from the line were donated to Qiming Small Animal Protection Center in Sichuan Province.
Her colleague, American designer Jeon underlined the importance of "a system to educate people on how to raise pets and the responsibility that comes with them," as well as checking the suitability of people to be pet owners.
"I didn't know that there were events like this in China. This is fantastic. Impressive," commented George Philippe, French resident of Beijing and father of two, at the event in the capital, where his young daughter Queenie stroked a dog for the first time in her life.
"I have been wanting to find an animal buddy for my daughters so it can keep them company when we parents have to go to work", he said. "I would love to look more into the information provided by the adoption day charity. Hopefully I can find the perfect pet for my family there".
"You mean 34 Chinese cities are having this kind of activity at the same time? Wow, it must be a world record" he exclaimed.