paper crane tea #4 online!

This edition of Paper Crane, Animal City Rights looks at how abandoned cats and dogs are treated in Shenzhen, including the efforts of SZCat, a community organization that actively promotes animal welfare. In fact, just yesterday, CZCat protested at the Futian hospital because a security guard had abused an abandoned cat. The episode was recorded but the administration ignored it. So SZCat occupied the SARS monument plaza in front of the hospital, generating TV coverage of the plight of abandoned pets and urban feral cats.

my hope for the new year


Originally uploaded by maryannodonnell

I have been thinking about the contradictions that shape human lives and how, in turn, those lives are the environment for others – human, animal, vegetable, and mineral.

SZCAT, a part of China’s Animal Lovers Net dedicated to saving feral urban cats announced that on December 26, 2010, a group of animal protectors (as they call themselves) discovered an illegal slaughterhouse and reported it to the Yanshi police as part of a rescue mission in a Hakka area where yes, I ate stewed cat and dog (separate dishes) several years ago.

The Nanfang Daily report on the rescue called it “Stealing Dogs Movement”, emphasizing the human cost of taking the animals. The animal protectors went in to rescue the animals and the local police destroyed several of the shanties that made up the slaughter house. However, as the volunteers were trying to get the animals to safety, many of the residents in the area stopped them because these animals were their livelihood. As a result, the police ended up negotiating a compromise – the volunteers could leave with the animals they already saved, and the rest would be left with their owners, who no longer had a way of processing them.

The results of this negotiation pleased no one. For their part, the migrant workers who make their precarious living by slaughtering and preparing traditional cat and dog dishes took a huge economic hit at the time of the year when they most need to save money for the upcoming Spring Festival. On the other hand, the volunteers felt that inhuman misuse of cats and dogs would continue without any intervention or “respect for law”.

I’m not sure how to think about this situation because I’m sad for all involved. Clearly, migrant workers in Shenzhen resort to all sorts of grayish means to earn a living not only for themselves, but also to support family back in neidi. At the same time, the raising and slaughtering of animals for human consumption is itself the cause of much, unnecessary suffering and inequality; not only do stock animals suffer, but raising cows and pigs and fish and chickens on industrialized ranches and farms damages the environment for other creatures (including humans).

My hope for the New Year is that we find ways of resolving these contradictions in inclusive ways. As long as we frame the debate as a choice between “save the pets” and “save the migrant workers,” we fail to see how all lives – not just the ones we like or agree with or are proud of or believe to be right, but all lives matter and matter beautifully.

Happy, happy 2011. Prosper.

“Eye” is a hit!

“Eye” was a success, so successful in fact that people (with tickets) were turned away at the door. How could this happen?

The New Black Box Theater at Shenzhen University seats roughly 150 people, with space for folks to sit on the floor and aisles, and to stand in the back. So maybe 200 people can see a show. Most Fat Bird productions don’t fill the house, even when (as with “Eye”) it is a joint production with Shenzhen University and therefore the show is free and open to the public. Thus, in order to encourage people to come, we call our families, friends, and acquaintances and encourage them to come. We ask, “How many will come?” And then to encourage us, our families, friends, and acquaintances say, “five” or “six” or “fourteen”. On the day of the show, maybe two or three or nine actually come. Sometimes a few unexpected guests drift in, but because Fat Bird / SZU productions are advertised by word of mouth, generally everyone expects 1/3 of of the promised audience not to come.

So, for “Eye” folks gave tickets in the spirit of “1/3 of the promised audience won’t come”. Opening night, this strategy worked and all who came got in. However, by day three of the performance, people were being turned away at the door; on day four, SZU students were not allowed in so that guests could see the show and still about 100 people (including students) were turned away; and on day five, new special tickets that operated as tickets (and not as airline overbookings) were issued. On day five, I actually had to call several friends and uninvite them to the show. It seems that the audience began to spread the word that “Eye” is a great show and consequently, those with tickets not only came (expecting to get in), but also brought additional guests (who didn’t have tickets).

“Eye” exceeded all expectations. Of those who got into the house, most had seen Chinese opera and some had seen translations (or not) of American musicals, but for many in the audience it was the first Chinese musical they had seen. And they loved it. Yes, musical theater may be one of the great popular art forms because it’s hard not to enjoy singing and dancing even when we don’t understand the lyrics, but when we do, and the story connects with our lives – fun, fun, fun.

The concept is seriously absurd – human beings are killing all the pigs to prevent the spread of “swine flu”. The dog in charge of insuring animal cooperation with human demands, has to track down the last pig couple on earth in order to exterminate them. A space experiment gone wrong, Fat Bird has been placed under house arrest by the dog, but is recruited to help in find the missing pigs because he speaks human and animal languages. Indeed, the animals mistake Fat Bird – a cross between a human, pig, and bird embryo – as the angel who will save them from humanity because he is the new human. And as the pigs and dogs and bats and rats and frogs and cockroaches sing about life under human domination, the point is clear: we will only save ourselves when we understand that to be fully human is not to dominate other life forms, but to learn to live (and dance and sing) in harmony.

Thanks to all who helped produce the show and thanks to all who came and made it at hit.