This is the first part of a 3-part diary series I wrote about our trip to the Philippines last week.
We’d barely been in Manila 24 hours and already met with a government task force, a vet and an animal welfare coalition group – all of whom we have either worked with in the past or are trying to forge collaborative plans with to end the dog meat trade in the Philippines.
Our hope for the end of our intense first day was to assist our local team in seizing a jeep transporting dogs to Baguio City to be slaughtered and consumed. Roughly twice a month, Network for Animals undertakes a seizure operation which involves a complex array of characters and a large degree of patience. Using information from informants, the team analyses what time a dog meat trader is likely to be collecting the dogs south of Manila and starting the journey north. The team then position themselves at various points along the main roads and compare number plates against a list of number plates of know dog meat trader vehicles. Once they spot a dog meat trader number plate they give chase and attempt to force the driver off the road before commandeering the jeep, seizing the dogs and arresting the driver.
We emerged from our final meeting into the intense humidity to learn that the team had already captured a dog meat trader several hours earlier than expected and was taking him to the police before bringing the dogs to a shelter run by the SPCA in Manila. We fought our way through the notorious Manila traffic to meet up with the rescued dogs at the SPCA where the scene that greeted us is one I would wish to forget if I didn’t believe it was so important to remember the sensory overload of what we found there. The dogs, bound around their mouths and stuffed into crates in the back of a small, hot jeep, stared silently out through slats of wood. A mixture of stray dogs and well-groomed, clearly stolen pets, huddled together shaking. They were covered in urine and feces, many of them suffering from malnutrition and a host of diseases. The stench and the heat in the jeep was overpowering.
Of the 67 dogs that were captured that night, surprisingly only one was dragged dead from the jeep. It remained beside the jeep for the next hour as the team battled to get the rest of the living dogs out before they shared the same fate. Each dog was lifted from the van, the twine around their muzzle cut free and then taken with a grasper into the shelter. Most were clearly terrified throughout the entire process, undoubtedly lacking trust and scarred by their experience at the hands of the dog meat traders. One dog, upon having the twine cut from around its mouth, froze, jerked, spat out some blood and died on the steps of the shelter.
Alerted by us to the seizure, the media descended. Journalists snapped pictures of the horrific scene, gathered audio and interviewed our team about the dog meat trade. We were glad the following day when we heard on the radio and via the internet news about our raid, as public education and dissemination of information relating to the dog meat issue is a key aspect of our campaign.