Pictures showing a mutilated camel being forced to beg on the streets of China's south-eastern Fuzhou city, have prompted an outcry on Chinese social media.
The images were reported to have originated on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, and were soon picked up and widely circulated across various other social media sites. They drew fierce debate about whether the beggars had deliberately mutilated the animals to trigger public sympathy. The pictures seemed to show a camel whose limbs had been lost, tethered to two men who were begging for money. "These people have to be such soulless creatures to be able to do that to the poor beast and parade it around like that. What kind of society have we become, exploiting animals for profit and greed?" commented one Weibo user. "Their plan to buy sympathy has clearly failed: anyone would look at their act with disgust," another said.
Wild camels are protected by law in China, but the unfortunate ones in the photographs have been identified as domestic Bactrian camels. These are commonly used across the country for transport and do not come under protection laws, activist John Hare tells BBC Trending. His charity, the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, aims to protect the animals in China and Mongolia, and has since circulated the images to the authorities. He has advice for concerned Chinese citizens: "If the public does not want any confrontation with the beggars, they should inform the authorities. But unfortunately as the pictures show, people tend to walk by, say nothing and do nothing."
Several online petitions were also set up, demanding the perpetrators be punished. One petition, which was posted on Change.org, called for a street vendor caught abusing his camel to be prosecuted. Another petition, which drew close to 15,000 signatures, called for 'urgent action' from the Chinese government to create legislation against animal abuse.
Reporting by Heather Chen
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