The notorious Yulin dog meat festival and the on-going “dog massacre” in Beijing are two indelible stains that will forever tarnish the reputation of the Chinese. However, little did the world know about the many Chinese who are nothing like those “dog-eating and dog-killing” countrymen of theirs. Thanks to Beijing Adoption Day (@北京领养日), a charity organization run by a team of volunteers, the world has a chance to get to know the animal-loving Chinese who have voluntarily taken on the responsibility of rescuing stray animals in China for the lack of an efficient animal control and care division in the Chinese government.
Top left: Charity sale; top right: A young women studies the dog's resume; bottom left: A volunteer at work; bottom right: Beijing Adoption Day fliers and adoption forms. Photo: Courtesy of Yu Peng @captain0123
The 16th Adoption Fair organized by Beijing Adoption Day took place on June 15, 2013. Sixteen dogs and nearly twenty cats came with their respective rescuers/"step-parents" and waited for their new owners to show up. The fair was kicked off in quite a lively manner with a belly dance performance by a fellow dog rescuer, a dog show performed by the lovely dog star “Juice” (果汁儿) and dog training master He Jun (@何军宠物训练工作室), as well as the appearance of actress Fu Yao @付瑶 who shared her rescue stories.
Besides “the adorables” (the dogs and cats), swarms of “admirers of the adorables”, both Chinese and foreign, visited the fair, many of whom filled in the adoption form by the end of the fair, the first step towards taking their four-legged friends home. It was hard to believe that behind the well-organized event was just a team of volunteers, joined together by their shared love for animals.
Snapshots from Beijing Adoption Day's 16th adoption event. Photo: Courtesy of Yu Peng @captain0123
We talked to Yu Peng (于鹏 @captain0123), one of the founding members of the organization. “You can call me 123,” he smiled, “My alias.” According to him, the charity, born out of a collective effort of four girls @大迦迦, @namnam路过, @陈嘉Serena, and @杨扬Yael, learnt the idea “Adopting Instead of Buying” (领养代替购买), from another animal rescue group called Jar Stray Animal Rescue (@JAR流浪动物保护) in Shanghai. It has successfully organized 10 adoption fairs like the one on Saturday and has inspired a number of similar organizations in other cities in China. Yu Peng, who is an active animal rescuer himself, was invited to join the group two years ago as the charity’s chief photographer.
“In the beginning we had very few volunteers. Our first fair was attended by only our friends and our charity sales were purchased by ourselves.” Yu Peng admitted, “Now we have about 20 regular members who take care of all the organizational works, from venue rental, to volunteer recruitment.”
Snapshots on Beijing Adoption Day's 16th adoption event. Photo: Courtesy of Yu Peng @captain0123
Unlike many Chinese organizations that suffer from slack discipline and loose management, Beijing Adoption Day seems to have run a tight ship despite the fact that all its members are doing it on a voluntary basis in their spare time. All rescuers have to apply and pass the organizer's double-check in order to participate in the events. A stray cat rescuer, Aunt Chen, told us that even though she knew the organizers well, having participated in multiple fairs, she failed to meet the application deadline this time and couldn’t bring her cats here. “Oh they are very principled,” she said approvingly, “and I respect them for that. I’ll wait for the next one.”
The charity provides an “off-line” as well as an on-line platform for people to adopt rescued animals through an international standardized adoption process which ensured that the animals will not be abandoned again after their adoption. “But we’ve had unpleasant experiences in this respect,” Yu sighed, “despite our tight screening process, there are always people returning their adopted pets to the rescuers, sometimes for ridiculous reasons. Once we had someone return a dog because the dog was too ‘obedient’! He said he wanted a livelier and naughtier dog, believe it or not." However, most of the animals managed to find themselves a permanent and loving home through Beijing Adoption Day.
“We have had help from many people, including many celebrities.” Yu said, “From our logo and poster, to our promotional songs and videos, then to the items in our charity sales, we have had loads of help and contributions from kind-hearted animal-loving volunteers.” With its many members having overseas study or work experience, the charity has an international standpoint, and even successfully enlisted the support of the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who did a recording for Beijing Adoption Day, according to Yu Peng. “We hope more foreigners could join us as volunteers and help us to promote our cause.” He said.
A father and his son walk towards the blue-banner sales booth at the adoption fair. Beijing Adoption Day only takes material donations which will be put on sale to raise money. Photo: sino-us.com
When asked how much time and effort he invests in this charity and whether he felt it was a burden, Yu Peng was quick to dismiss our worries. “Oh I would not let it disrupt my own life,” he said, “I contribute what I can within my own limit. And to us, this is something fun to do, and something immensely rewarding as well.”
Beijing Adoption Day’s official Weibo @北京领养日, as Yu Peng described, stood out from a score of similar animal-rescue themed Weibo accounts because of its positive and light-hearted style. “We do not post disturbing images and tragedies like some people. That is a very disheartening thing to do. We want people to focus on the bright side of animal rescue and have a good time adopting the lovely animals.”
Yu Peng said they hope to be able to host adoption events every month in every district of Beijing. So far, due to various reasons, they have only managed to organize 10 successful events in the past two years, mostly in the northern and eastern part of the city. “We’ll need much more help from many more volunteers in order to achieve that. There is still a long way to go. But I am very optimistic.”
Please click on for more photos from the 16th Beijing Adoption Day fair. All photos are provided by Yu Peng (Weibo: @captain0123) .