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A Tuck MBA Crusades Against Chinese Dog Slaughtering

Pao pictured in the Yulin dog facility. Photo provided by Perry

Pao, pictured in the Yulin dog facility. Photo provided by Perry

CUSTOMIZING THE TUCK EXPERIENCE TO FIT AN ANIMAL ACTIVIST’S IDEAL MBA

The Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, widely known as the Yulin Dog Festival, has only been around since 2010. After a growing trend of dog meat consumption in the ’90s, the festival formed in the Southern China town and draws tourists from around the region. Held around the summer solstice, it’s estimated that 10,000 dogs are slaughtered during the week-long festival, which started June 21. This year in particular has seen an immense popular backlash. In addition to a 10,000 vigil social media campaign and protests, celebrities such as Matt Damon, Joaquin Phoenix, and Rooney Mara have joined forces to spark awareness of the event and spur the kind of outrage that might put an end to it.

But before leaving for Yulin with Hsiung, who is Chinese-American, and fellow investigator Van Breen, Perry had some explaining to do. She needed to convince her Tuck professors that she had a good reason for disappearing from class for three weeks at the end of the semester. “They let me leave for three weeks during the school year because I told them this was probably the most important thing I’ll ever do in my life and I really need to do it unless you’re going to kick me out,” Perry says. It took some finagling and “intentionally vague” conversations with a member of the dean’s office and her Tuck professors. But Perry was allowed to go by front-loading many of her courses, taking advantage of Tuck’s mini-course structure. She also deferred a core class to next year.

“I’ve been very impressed with how much I can customize my MBA,” Perry says, noting the network and prestige of the Tuck brand. Through Tuck connections and help from the administration, she’s been able to become a board member at a local Humane Society and helped build a new, complex financial model for Farm Sanctuary, a New York-based organization for agricultural animals rescued from abusive situations, as her first-year consulting capstone project. She also is currently co-authoring an article with a Tuck faculty member exploring the intersection between animal agriculture and animal welfare. “There have been several different ways I’ve been able to integrate animal rights into an MBA curriculum,” Perry notes.

BEGINNING OF THE INVESTIGATION

Perry arrived in Yulin on April 25 after a two-day journey from Boston. The main goal for the team was to come back with at least one dog to be the face of a campaign against the Yulin festival. First, they had to locate a dog facility. Because of Perry’s tight schedule and need to get back to Tuck’s New Hampshire campus, the team was forced to work quickly. “We had to speed through this one because I couldn’t hang out in China for a couple months,” Perry acknowledges. Having Hsiung on the team was key. Flexing his Chinese nationality, he met with local restaurants that served dog meat until he found one willing to share information about its provider.

When they found the dog facility not far from the main Yulin marketplace, there were only seven dogs inside scattered across 100-square-foot pins. A shipment had just left, and dogs too sick to be killed and used for meat were left behind. Immediately, the team was met with a problem: They only had resources to bring three dogs to the U.S. “That’s the hardest part of these investigations if it involves a rescue. You stand in a room and pick who is going to live and die,” Perry says, still emotional from the experience.

On one particular occasion, when Perry was running surveillance for her co-investigators, she locked eyes with one of the dogs that had been chosen to stay. “As soon as I got there he was staring at me,” Perry recalls of a little black dog watching her through a two-foot gap in the concrete walls. “Every time I looked, he was staring into my eyes. As I was leaving I wanted to look back, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t look him in the eyes. Because I knew the next day when we extracted the footage from the cameras we were going to watch it and I was going to watch someone beat that dog to death. That night I hated myself more than any other time in my life.”