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No Animal Harmed in the Making of This Film? Alleged Dog Abuse at Hengdian World Studios Angers Chinese Netizens

Animal abuse or a really good dog actor?

Manya Koetse

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An alleged case of dog abuse went viral on Chinese social media this week, after backstage footage of a violent scene was shared online. Dog actor ‘Xiao Huang’ is now praised for his hard work.

“No animal was harmed in the making of this film” is a standard message most viewers are used to seeing at the end of many movies, but in the case of this Chinese production, many netizens fear it is not the case.

Entertainment blogger and actor Ren Tao (任涛), who often posts behind-the-scenes videos, posted a clip and some photos on Weibo that allegedly exposed how a dog was purposely harmed during the filming of a costume drama at Hengdian World Studios (横店影视城) (see footage as posted by BJTime in embedded tweet below).

The footage shows a Chinese rural dog on a film set. Tied to a chord from two sides, the dog is pulled behind a horse that lashes out with its hooves. The actor on the horse also seems to direct the horse to kick the little dog, which falls down on the floor multiple times.

A second clip shows the dog twitching on the floor, seemingly unable to get up, while various cast members are looking at it without doing anything.

Ren Tao wrote: “The small dog was kicked by the horse several times, and after the scene was shot the director was indifferent and left. How cold*!” *[lit. “Warmth or coldness is the way of the world.”]

Hengdian World Studios, founded in 1996, is known as the largest outdoor film and TV studio in the world.

Although the actor later removed his original post of May 7, it had already been reposted and picked up by various Weibo accounts, including that of a popular pet blogger, who wrote that the crew and cast showed “no humanity.”

The pet blogger also mentioned the existing agreements of American producers and filmmakers regarding the wellbeing of animals on the set. The American Humane Association is the organization that monitors productions and awards the “No Animals Were Harmed” end credit.

“Film and television works are meant to disseminate culture, not to seek after profits and becoming a slaughterhouse for animals,” the blogger wrote. (See the clip they posted in the embedded tweet below).

The hashtag “Cast and Crew Abuse a Dog” (#剧组虐狗#) soon took off on Weibo, receiving over 15 million views.

Hundreds of commenters responded with anger, calling for a boycott of the production and condemning those involved.

 

Xiao Huang: Working Like a Dog

 

On May 8, the official account of the TV drama Held in the Lonely Castle (孤城闭) responded to the controversy with a lengthy statement and video, writing: “Today in our backstage area the news reached us of the online circulation of a video relating to “cast and crew members abusing a dog.””

The account states that the scene that was being filmed that day is from Feng Menglong’s “The Book of Horses and Dogs,” and that the dog that is featured in this scene is named ‘Xiao Huang,’ a “much-loved dog” who made a “guest appearance” in the drama.

The statement says that the horse and the dog were both tied to ropes to secure their position for the filming and to prevent them from running away. The staff controlling the ropes are there to make sure that the animals will not be hurt.

“Xiao Huang was not really kicked by the horse,” the post says, explaining that the rope was pulled at the same time the horse kicked, to make Xiao Huang trip and make it seem he was kicked. A fake horse leg was allegedly used for close-up scenes.

After the shooting was finished, the staff quickly calmed the horse and Xiao Huang, the post says.

About the video in which the actors look at the dog while it is falling down, seemingly injured, the statement says this scene was “important to the plot.” A veterinarian came to the set to put the dog under anesthesia beforehand, and the dog’s reaction was because of the after-effects of anesthesia – not because of being kicked by the horse.

The account post further says that the crew took care of the dog after the filming was completed, making sure it was ok until the anesthesia after-effects wore off, and then gave it food and let it play on the set.

“Xiao Huang was never injured and is well cared for,” the statement concludes: “Please respect the hard work of our crew and don’t spread rumors.”

The denial of the abuse became even bigger than the original story; the hashtag “‘Held in the Lonely Castle’ Cast & Crew Deny Dog Abuse” (#孤城闭剧组否认虐狗#) was viewed nearly 30 million times at the time of writing.

 

A Dog and Pony Show?

 

The TV drama production’s statement has led to many reactions online. “The horse and the dog are both such good actors, and the crew is very hardworking,” a typical comment on Weibo said.

Others praise Xiao Huang for his hard work, and condemn the rumors about animal cruelty, saying the working methods of the crew show great progress in China’s treatment of animals.

But some are still skeptical and say they do not believe the provided statement, believing that the denial of rumors was only staged to avert controversy and promote the TV drama.

One Weibo blogger shared slow-motion footage of the backstage video, showing that Xiao Huang was tossed around by the horse’s leg during shooting. It also shows redness and baldness in the dog’s neck area.

“Abuse is abuse,” the Weibo user writes, denouncing the treatment of the dog during shooting, and criticizing the fact that the dog was given anesthesia.

Cases of dog abuse often go viral on Chinese social media. In 2017, the killing of a pet dog by a neighborhood guard triggered many online calls for rapid implementation of animal welfare legislation in China.

In 2016, a group of animal welfare activists in Chengdu took the law into their own hands when they publicly beat up a man who abused his dog. Meanwhile, the annual Yulin Dog Meat festival seems to get more controversial by the year.

On Weibo, the Xiao Huang case is not over yet. While some netizens side with the production team, others refuse to believe the dog was not harmed.

“I think it’s sad for the dog either way,” some write.  Meanwhile, the official page of the Held in the Lonely Castle TV drama posted another photo of ‘Xiao Huang,’ writing: “The most conscientious official is our best representative.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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    Marcia

    May 11, 2019 at 12:23 am

    Don’t believe the Chinese. Any country that can hold a so called festival like yulin and drag pet dogs out of owners hands or run dog meat trades isn’t to be called human and definitely cannot be trusted. These acts are well documented and filmed China you CANNOT deny any of it.

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China and Covid19

Fresh Off the Boat, Xiamen Fish Are Tested for Covid-19

Catch of the day! These fish in Xiamen can’t escape their daily Covid test.

Manya Koetse

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It does not matter if you’re old or young, shrimp or fish – you can’t escape China’s zero-covid policy.

In the Jimei district of the coastal city of Xiamen, some fish and shrimp also had to do a nucleic acid test this week, leading to some banter on Chinese social media.

In the area, fishermen returning from a day of work have to undergo nucleic acid tests together with some of the fish that they caught during the day.

After the fishermen themselves have done the Covid test, they reportedly have to grab a few fresh fish from their catch of the day for the anti-epidemic workers to test. They open the mouth of the fish so that the fish can be tested with the cotton swab.

Chinese media outlet Sohu (搜狐新闻) posted a video about the issue on its Weibo account on August 17th, receiving over 90,000 likes and more than 8000 shares.

“I thought fish didn’t any lungs?” a popular comment said, with other commenters suggesting that this news made it clear that Covid “doesn’t affect the lungs but the brain instead.”

Another commenter suggested that if this matter concerned authorities, they should also start testing mosquitos.

Some also felt bad for the fish: “They still have to undergo this before getting killed.”

“The fish should be grateful for receiving a Covid test for free,” others wrote, while there were also people who wondered if parts of the sea would go into lockdown mode if some fish would test positive for Covid.

There were also critical commenters wondering about any scientific reasoning behind testing fish, asking who was getting paid to test them – suggesting commercial benefits outweigh scientific basis in this case.

“You can’t get Covid if you don’t have lungs, let alone if you live in the sea,” one Weibo user wrote, another person asking: “Have we all gone mad?”

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China Animals

‘Welcome Home, Molly’ – Chinese Zoo Elephant Returns to Kunming after Online Protest

One small step for animal protection in China, one giant leap for Molly the elephant.

Manya Koetse

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Following online protest and the efforts of animal activists, Molly has returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born and where mother elephant Mopo is.

The little elephant named Molly is a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media recently.

The popular Asian elephant, born in the Kunming Zoo in 2016, was separated from her mother at the age of two in April of 2018. Molly was then transferred from Kunming Zoo to Qinyang, Jiaozuo (Henan), in exchange for another elephant. Over the past few years, fans of Molly started voicing their concerns online as the elephant was trained to do tricks and performances and to carry around tourists on her back at the Qinyang Swan Lake Ecological Garden (沁阳天鹅湖生态园), the Qinyang Hesheng Forest Zoo (沁阳和生森林动物园), the Jiaozuo Forestry Zoo (焦作森林动物园), and the Zhoukou Safari Park (周口野生动物世界).

Since the summer of 2021, more people started speaking out for Molly’s welfare when they spotted the elephant chained up and seemingly unhappy, forced to do handstands or play harmonica, with Molly’s handlers using iron hooks to coerce her into performing.

Earlier this month, Molly became a big topic on Chinese social media again due to various big accounts on Xiaohongshu and Weibo posting about the ‘Save Molly’ campaign and calling for an elephant performance ban in China (read more).

Although zookeepers denied any animal abuse and previously stated that the elephant is kept in good living conditions and that animal performances are no longer taking place, Molly’s story saw an unexpected turn this week. Thanks to the efforts of online netizens, Molly fans, and animal welfare activists, Molly was removed from Qinyang.

A popular edited image of Molly that has been shared a lot online.

On May 15, the Henan Forestry Bureau – which regulates the holding of all exotic species, including those in city zoos – announced that Molly would return to Kunming in order to provide “better living circumstances” for the elephant. A day later, on Monday, Molly left Qinyang and returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born. In Kunming, Molly will first receive a thorough health check during the observation period.

Official announcement regarding Molly by the Henan Forestry Administration.

Many online commenters were happy to see Molly returning home. “Finally! This is great news,” many wrote, with others saying: “Please be good to her” and “Finally, after four years of hardship, Molly will be reunited with her mother.”

Besides regular Weibo accounts celebrating Molly’s return to Kunming, various Chinese state media accounts and official accounts (e.g. the Liaocheng Communist Youth League) also posted about Molly’s case and wished her a warm welcome and good wishes. One Weibo post on the matter by China News received over 76,000 likes on Monday.

Although many view the effective online ‘Save Molly’ campaign as an important milestone for animal welfare in China, some animal activists remind others that there are still other elephants in Chinese zoos who need help and better wildlife protection laws. Among them are the elephant Kamuli (卡目里) and two others who are still left in Qinyang.

For years, animal welfare activists in China and in other countries have been calling for Chinese animal protection laws. China does have wildlife protection laws, but they are often conflicting and do not apply to pets and there is no clear anti-animal abuse law.

“I’ll continue to follow this. What are the next arrangements? What is the plan for Molly and the other elephants? How will you guarantee a safe and proper living environment?”

Another Weibo user writes: “This is just a first step, there is much more to be done.”

To follow more updates regarding Molly, check out Twitter user ‘Diving Paddler’ here. We thank them for their contributions to this article.

To read more about zoos and wildlife parks causing online commotion in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse

References (other sources linked to within text)

Arcus Foundation (Ed.). 2021. State of the Apes: Killing, Capture, Trade and Ape Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

China Daily. 2012. “Animal Rights Groups Seek Performance Ban.” China Daily, April 16 http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-04/16/content_25152066.htm [Accessed May 1 2022].

Li, Peter J. 2021. Animal Welfare in China: Culture, Politics and Crisis. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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