Retired teacher Yang Xiaoyun, generally known as Mrs Yang, is a Chinese dog rescuer, working with no other help than a few volunteers and the donations she receives. With the Yulin Dog Meat Festival approaching, one UK charity stepped in to help her – but what has become of the money raised?
As the annual Chinese dog-eating festival of Yulin approached last year, animal rescuers were desperate to save as many dogs as possible. In June 2015, No To Dog Meat, the official campaigning body of the UK charity World Protection for Dogs and Cats in Trading, launched a fundraising appeal called “Help Mrs Yang Save Dogs In Yulin” with a goal of £5,000. Online donations reached a total of £78,479.91. When Dr Daniel Allen discovered that only between £5,000 and £11,000 ever reached Mrs Yang, he wanted to know why. The animal geographer and TV presenter told us, “The fundraising was still open and donations kept coming in, so I contacted the charity and asked why Mrs Yang had not yet received all the money. “Almost immediately, I was targeted with online abuse. A petition was started to ask my university to sack me and that I should be prosecuted for abusing and bullying women – something I never did. It was shocking behaviour!
“The petition was almost immediately taken down, as it was obviously both untrue and unlawful, but my workplace was repeatedly contacted with absurd accusations. Meanwhile, despite several exchanges on social media websites, Twitter especially, NTDM (NO TO DOG MEAT) refused to answer my very reasonable questions –instead accusing me of harassment.” In an email exchange with Dogs Today, a NTDM volunteer denied there had been any harassment, but we had been shown screenshots of a Twitter exchange. We were also told that asking the charity questions on social media “does not count as contacting the charity,” and that Daniel should have phoned them directly. “If anything, this proves that they were aware of my questions and refused to answer,” Daniel says. “The reason why I didn’t phone them was that a phone call is private, an answer online is public. I wanted the matter to be explained publicly, and they have refused to do so. I even suggested a meeting at their office, with a camera crew to have it all on film. When it comes to charity – accountability, transparency and public trust are vital.” NTDM trustee Robert Donkers told us he doesn’t believe social media is the right place for such discussion, and that volunteers – not all of whom he knows personally – ran the charity’s social media feeds. “Our volunteers are very protective of the charity,” he said.
“When people point fingers and ask questions that in themselves are often quite aggressive, the volunteers might answer in such a way to protect the charity.” Actor Peter Egan, a wellknown supporter of animal welfare, says he has been subject to similar online abuse for a few years, after publicly saying he did not support NTDM. Abusive behaviour “A few years ago, I came across an e-petition started by their CEO, Julia De Cadenet, against the dog meat trade in Korea, which I supported and promoted,” Peter says. “I was then briefly in touch with No To Dog Meat.” Some time later, in June 2012, Peter was invited to a rally and decided to attend. However, he told us he was not especially impressed by how the charity was run. “I soon realised they downright refused to cooperate with other charities,making it sound as though they were the only ones to be doing anything. Plus, some of the messages NTDM was sending out were so culturally offensive I felt it was doing more harm than good.”
At that point Peter did some research. “I found a series of vicious attacks against other charities with their same goal, such as Soi Dog. It was all very aggressive and abusive behaviour, and at the same time they didn’t seem to be getting much of anything done for the dogs,” he says. When he found out he was being mentioned as a NTDM supporter due to his presence at their rally, Peter felt he had to publicly distance himself from the charity. “When someone on Twitter asked me whether or not I supported No To Dog Meat, I could only tell the truth – that I did not support or trust them,” he says.