What does it mean to be a dog person? For me it means understanding that dogs are deeply sentient beings. Animals can express affection, loyalty, love, and appreciation. They can feel pain and yearn for affection. Some dogs are amazing painters and my dog, Estella, enjoys solving puzzles in exchange for treats.

Dogs also comprehend language and tone. In fact, they use the same regions in the brain when attempting to decipher language, which means that dogs process language similar to the way we do. According to some scientists, dogs have the intelligence of a two-year-old.

For me, being a dog person is understanding that dogs have the ability to feel, perceive, and think just like humans while also knowing how unfair it is that they cannot defend or express their needs. Being a dog person is realizing that dogs are defenseless animals that cannot vote, protest or sign petitions. I’ve come to realize that truly being a dog person—or simply a humane individual—means being socially conscience about the cruel mistreatment of man’s best friends, at home and abroad.

Since they lack a voice box, we need to be their guardians and protectors.

One of the most despicable cases of animal abuse, in my opinion, is Asia’s dog meat trade. While some are willing to treat it as a crass punchline, too few realize that dog-eating overseas is an ongoing issue. In fact, it’s a persistent and dangerous industry in many countries.

My love of dogs is what inspired me to get involved in actively opposing the dog meat trade in Asia. Luckily for the cause, dogs are globally beloved creatures—and no less so in Asia, where dog ownership is skyrocketing. But while loving dogs is a compelling force in and of itself, it’s not enough on its own.

Here’s why the trade is worth urgently opposing, and what you can do to get involved.

About the dog meat trade

According to the Asia Canine Protection Association (ACPA), “The dog meat trade is the only trade known to encourage the mass unregulated movement, sale, and slaughter of millions of dogs each year, posing a significant human health risk through the potential transmission of animal-borne diseases.” One of these diseases is rabies, which can be transmitted to handlers who get scratched or bitten, and through human consumption.

An estimated 30 million dogs are killed for consumption across Asia every year, including 10-20 million in China, 5 million in Vietnam, and 2 million in South Korea. Other regions that trade and consume canines include Thailand, the Philippines, northern India, and Laos.

A majority of these dogs are former pets abducted from rural areas by gangs of violent thieves, who sometimes take animals to farms with their collars still on. In South Korea, a lot of these dogs are bred for this purpose or taken from pet breeders.

Though the trade is well-organized, it is not necessarily lucrative. Research by Animals Asia alleges that dogs cannot be feasibly farmed the way other animals are. Even if regulated, mass farming would not be cost-effective due to the high-protein diets, high rates of diseases like rabies and cholera, and territorial nature, which leads to infighting. Most dog farms do they have vaccines or hygiene standards, nor do they turn a profit.

As of 2016, 8.6 billion Chinese citizens billion have voted to end the trade. Regardless, consumption is driven by older citizens and harmful health myths. Because it’s thought that frightened dogs taste better, they are subjected to extreme torture by electrocution, beaten with rods, skinned alive or hung to increase their adrenaline.

There is also the belief that dog meat increases male virility, or keeps you cool, leading to consumption spikes in the summertime. These ideas are not supported by scientific evidence, and yet the trade continues.

What we can do

There are a variety of organizations which actively raise funds, investigate and publish research, and raise awareness on the dog meat trade, including the ACPA, the Humane Society International, the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, the Animal Welfare Institute, and the Duo Duo Project.

Their accomplishments have been promising so far. Marc Ching, Founder of the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, has taken it upon himself to rescue well over 300 dogs from farms by posing as a potential buyer. The dogs are brought back to California, where they sheltered and put up for adoption.

Individual activists can donate to causes like the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, or join in specific efforts by organizations like the Duo Duo Project, which recently petitioned to shut down China’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival, for which thousands of dogs are slaughtered each year. Thanks the collective pressure of animal welfare activists, the festival was canceled

I hope that all dog lovers will open their eyes to this unjust cruelty, and do their part to stop it. When I imagine my dogs stolen, trafficked, beaten and executed, I shudder to think of the many millions that face this very destiny. For dogs and for basic decency, I hope you’ll join me in taking a stand.