DBer Anthony Beck advocates a cruelty-free and sustainable world and he’s spreading the word with No Dogs Left Behind. Elizabeth Kerr reports
Photos by Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.com
Veterinarian Anthony Beck has no pets. It’s easy to wonder if the Discovery Bay resident is one of those professionals who prefer to leave their work at work – kind of like a chef who eats Marks & Spencer ready-meals instead of cooking. Alas, that’s not the case.
“I had two Beijing rescue cats that died in the last few years,” the lanky Brit points out. “But I’m waiting to bring a few No Dogs Left Behind dogs to Hong Kong.” That’s more like it.
The No Dogs Left Behind (NDLB, www.nodogsleftbehind.com) dogs Anthony is referring to are refugees from mainland China’s dog-meat trade that the non-profit organisation rescues and re-homes. With help from hundreds of volunteers in China and the US, NDLB rescues dogs from slaughterhouses, dog-meat trucks, wet markets and illegal traffickers, and then transports them to safe havens where they receive medical care, nutritional support and rehabilitation. The animals are then matched with loving forever families in North America and soon Hong Kong.
Anthony has been clinical director with NDLB since 2016, when founder Jeff Beri asked him to help deal with an emergency in Shenzhen involving nearly 500 animals. Jeff, who can usually be found in one of the NDLB shelters across China, did most of the heavy lifting in dealing with the legalities and parties displeased their livestock was being liberated. But Anthony decided to stick around and offer up clinical assistance.
Born in London and raised in the Midlands, Anthony recalls being “animal-obsessed” by the time he turned eight. He’d include 10 on a school project about pets. “I was that kid,” he cracks. Becoming a vet was a life decision he arrived at by age 13.
Not that it was easy coming from a state school. “In the UK you need straight-A grades to get into veterinary school. I was told it was never going to happen. On top of that, from my county no one had gone to vet school in seven or eight years,” he explains. “I was good at maths. They recommended I focus on maths.” And while many of us would have marched back to that counsellor waving an acceptance letter around, Anthony is a better person than that. “Actions speak louder than words,” he says.
Indeed they do. Anthony graduated from the University of London’s Royal Veterinary College in 1998, and landed in Hong Kong, the first time, in 2003. Not long thereafter he relocated to the mainland, to work in the then-burgeoning high-end veterinary care sector. After a stint with the quarantine bureau at Beijing’s biggest hospital, Anthony and the hospital director Shi Yibing founded Doctors Beck and Stone in 2009. When it sold to the New Ruipeng Pet Healthcare Group a few years back, Anthony became the only foreign vet to have built and sold a (hugely successful) veterinary group in China.
Anthony and his wife, artist Yulia Shautsukova, and (now) seven-year old son, Alexander, returned to Hong Kong, and settled in DB, in 2014. DB is ‘dogs-and-babies’ for a reason, and Anthony kept himself busy at the DB branch of Doctors Beck and Stone, while managing a veterinary team that spanned 4,500 kilometres from Beijing to Singapore.
“Normally, neither of us would have chosen a place as quiet as Discovery Bay, but we had lived in Shanghai and Shenzhen, and had a good five years of full-on urban culture. And I do quite a lot of outdoor sports, so it was a simple choice,” Anthony says. Importantly too, Anthony wanted Alexander to live someplace where he could “understand the responsibility of having a dog.”
That’s when NDLB entered the picture.
No dogs left behind
About that picture. Anthony knows full well that at this point in our collective history a couple of white guys going into another country and telling people what to do is, shall we say, problematic. (NDLB is also an American charity.) The optics don’t work in 2021. To that end, neither he nor Jeff would be there if not for an existing groundswell of support to stop dog trafficking in China. The central government outlawed it in 2020 (admittedly citing COVID-19 concerns), and in Guangxi there’s enormous local pressure to end Yulin, the 10-year-old summer ‘festival’ of dog-meat – and lychee – consumption.
“Everyone can play devil’s advocate. ‘We eat cows, what’s the difference?’ But this is about the welfare of the dogs. And my role is seeing to the welfare of the dogs in the shelters,” Anthony explains. “Jeff is potentially taking a socio-political stance and he’s very cognisant of that fact. I understand the culture perspective but first, it’s illegal. Second, there’s a welfare issue. And third, let’s not steal other people’s dog and kill them horrifically.”
Anthony notes that advocates believe slaughtering the dogs when they’re stressed is better for the meat’s texture, and some estimates suggest that upwards of 70% of the dogs are stolen. “They’re someone’s pet,” he says. “You go to the NDLB shelters in China and there are samoyeds, poodles, labradors, retrievers. They’re owned dogs.”
NDLB’s mandate includes education, finding new homes for dogs once destined for the butcher, and advocacy for a “cruelty-free and sustainable world.” Unsurprisingly, Anthony practises what he preaches: He’s vegan for sustainability reasons, and he’d like to see us all eating less meat.
He’d also like to see Hong Kong function as the springboard for broader work in eliminating the dog-meat industry across Asia. It’s not an issue in the SAR but South Korea and Vietnam still have booming dog-meat industries, and Taiwan is the only other country besides China where the practice is illegal.
With millions worried about their jobs and homes, pleas for yet another worthy cause may be coming at an awkward time. Anthony gets that too. “I’m sure there’s a challenge in fundraising now. I don’t know; that’s not my speciality. But there’s never a bad time for a swift, strong message that is thought provoking without sending people running away in horror.”
With millions also worried about their heath, eating better – more plants, less meat – has gained traction, and concern not only about what we consume but also where it came from is trending. As a bonus, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department is asking private vets to set up more quarantine facilities. “The time is right to bring NDLB to Hong Kong, to be more active and raise the profile,” Anthony says.
And if Anthony says the time is right then it likely is. He’s been active in animal rescue throughout his career, “happiest helping out as a shelter vet, managing the building of hospitals and shelters, or being the point of call for shelter crisis advice.” He’s chased rhinos through the bush and vaccinated monkeys in Bolivia. And in 2007, he set up an emergency neuter centre at one of Beijing’s largest shelters, the Beijing Human and Animal Environmental Centre.
In 2019, Anthony expanded his scope still further with the launch of Asia vet, a Hong Kong-based consultancy that advises on veterinary business management and development across the region. But that’s not his focus today. Right now he’s here to talk about NDLB. In the coming months, he says we can hope for a series of Hong Kong events, from sustainability markets to lunches to dog walks, all designed to turn a spotlight on dog trafficking, facilitate adoptions and reposition meat overall.
Here, Anthony pauses for a moment, as if picturing partner Jeff in his sleeping bag at a NDLB animal shelter. “Though I hasten to add, I have not discussed this specifically with Jeff. He’s been flat out, hands on, getting 400 dogs to homes in the US.”
Greet the Charity
Date for your diary: On April 11, NDLB is headlining a PETaLIFE ‘greet the charity’ event at Hemingway’s.
Dogs are welcome and, in addition to a 10am dog walk from Sienna Park to DB Plaza, you can expect an introduction to the NDLB charity by founder Jeff Beri at 1pm.
Since PETaLIFE aims to celebrate DB as an eco-sustainable, pet-friendly community, DB Green, Lantau Paddle and OceansAsia will also be in attendance, with a group paddle/beach clean-up planned for the afternoon.
To find out more, WhatsApp Anthony Beck on 5931 0854, or email [email protected]Tags: charity, dogs, vet, welfare