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Man Turns on Best Friend

This shaggy dog story is strange but true

Researchers from around the world have gathered this week in the charming Anglo-Saxon town of Bristol, England, partly to ponder a profound and difficult issue: Does the food industry truly need to raise chickens and hogs and other animals in such horrendous, cruel conditions? As long as we insist on eating meat, aren't there more humane ways to produce it?

It's all happening at the 40th International Congress for Applied Ethology (ethology: the scientific study of animal behavior). It's amazing how dramatically the discussion about animal welfare has changed. Barely a decade ago, many food industry executives would have told you that animal-welfare activists and scientists were a bunch of kooks. But landmark studies now prove that common agribusiness methods make animals suffer terribly. So these days, McDonald's requires its suppliers to treat hens and cattle with special, more humane methods. Burger King and Wendy's have followed suit.

Which brings us to the subject of dogs in China. While researchers in Bristol are delivering their sober lectures examining how animals feel, government leaders in China have announced that they're going to slaughter — read this slowly — more than half a million dogs.

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Louisa Lim tells us that officials in Yunnan and Shandong provinces have decided this is the best way to prevent a rabies epidemic: Exterminate every dog, whether it's a pet or stray, in areas where doctors have recently diagnosed a small number of human cases of rabies. Animal lovers are freaking out.

"One of the many reasons for the outrage," Louisa tells us, "is the barbaric methods used for massacring the dogs. In Mouding, some were beaten to death in front of their owners. Also, in order to find dogs that were hidden by their owners, culling squads went out after darkness banging pots and pans and setting off fireworks to frighten the animals into barking — so they could track them down and kill them."

Read the full letter after the jump...