The Year of the Dog: Liforme’s special connection with China, and a Yoga Mat in support of Animal Welfare
Liforme and China
As a global company, Liforme has a first hand and important relationship with China. It’s where our mats are manufactured and a major market for Yoga in general and for our mats in particular. We have a permanent team in China and our founder, James Armitage, spends a lot of time there keeping a close eye on everything we do there. When Liforme was just getting off the ground, it became clear that making the mats in China was the only viable way to make them at all. Quite simply, it’s the only place with the manufacturing infrastructure necessary to produce the sort of new levels of quality and performance that we were aiming for, and to do this in any kind of cost-effective way. By using high quality, non-toxic materials and committing to genuinely environmentally conscious production processes, we knew that the ‘retail price’ of our innovative new mat would already be on the high end of the spectrum. So, we needed to solve the complex conundrum of making our mats in the most economical way while maintaining our high standards for the environment, working conditions, and human labour. We found a way to do that in China.
James went to China (and some other East Asian countries) no less than seven times before we ever sold a single yoga mat and, in the process, visited (and rejected) many factories and companies whose operations and ethics clearly weren’t up to scratch. James has continued to travel to China twice yearly and has now been there more than 15 times. The global yoga movement has found a strong foothold in China and tens of millions of Chinese people are keenly practising Yoga. With the popularity of Liforme mats in China, we are truly proud and excited to be a part of this movement which is becoming a powerful connection between the so-called East and West of our world, at a time when some in positions of great power are clearly seeking to divide us.
‘Made in China’ Revisited
When Western people see ‘Made in China’ on a product, they may immediately wonder about the conditions under which that item was produced and, indeed, in the past there have been many valid reasons for this concern. Was it made in a sweatshop or dilapidated old factory that breaks local regulations, employing under-age workers, requiring excessively long working hours, and putting health and safety at risk for the sake of increased profit? Whilst these problems can and do still occur across many industries and in many countries, including China, this is a global issue frankly (sadly) evident in the practices of many companies even in what we consider to be ‘highly developed’ countries. It does not have to be this way.
We’ve found that it’s possible to choose ethical manufacturing in China. It’s not easy; you have to work really hard to achieve it and you can’t cut corners. The truth is that there are so many people and companies cutting corners (be advised, yogis). It’s very important that you hold companies to account and that you remember the power that we all collectively have to insist on better standards, and that in this age of social media and the internet, our voices can be heard (and are being heard) like never before. Do ask questions, do demand better, and if you’re going to buy products (we always say only buy good products that you really need and that are really fit for the purpose), vote with your wallet for these higher standards and do not buy things from companies who do not give a good account of their ethical practices.
The Year of the Dog
In 2017, we released a ‘Year of the Rooster’ special edition mat which we made available only in China. We are very happy to announce that our latest special edition is themed around the Lunar ‘Year of the Dog’. This time, we’re particularly excited to be making this new mat available worldwide and to be meaningfully partnering with a very important charity to raise awareness and funding in support of animal welfare. We believe that many yogis would like to honour their canine companions, as well as to live in accordance with the important yama (yogic value) of Ahimsa (non-violence).
Partnership with the RSPCA
We’re continuing our commitment to donating to charity partners who do important work for social justice, the environment, and the rights, welfare, and safety of all living beings throughout the world. In this case, we’re very happy to be working with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). In addition to being the first global charity to be specifically concerned with the welfare of animals, the RSPCA has been especially successful in supporting legislative solutions to improving animal welfare. Since the founding of the organization in 1824, it has been instrumental in changing the way animals are regarded and this has had an impact the world over. China, in particular, is in a transitional moment with regard to the status of animals, and the RSPCA has been directly instrumental in effecting commitment from the Chinese government to enact new legislation to improve the treatment of all animals (within the agricultural industry in particular).
Yulin Dog Meat Festival
One specific event that has become the nexus for an international outcry against animal cruelty in China is the Yulin Dog Meat and Lychee Festival. Though the name alone is enough to make many recoil, dog meat has been used for food in some parts of China for centuries. As pet-keeping has increased, however, more and more Chinese are rejecting dog meat and there are well established campaigns within China to oppose the trade.
The Yulin festival, which is given the aura of tradition by occurring on midsummer’s day, was in fact only founded in 2007. It was intended to boost the flagging dog meat industry and is not an age-old tradition that is being unjustly targeted by culturally insensitive outsiders. Indeed, many of its strongest critics are within China. On-site reports indicate that as many as 10,000 dogs are transported into the city for slaughter during the festival. They are kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions. Many are sick and some are wearing collars, indicating that they may have been pets. In the last year central authorities in Beijing have become increasingly concerned that Yulin attracts such global negative attention that it’s damaging the country’s image. At the same time reaction from the public all over China against the cruel treatment of dogs at Yulin is becoming more vocal each year. The country is moving towards passing its first ever laws to protect animals.
We are sorry that some of the issues we raise are distressing, but we hope that knowing the story behind our new mat will galvanise you to support us in raising awareness for the welfare of dogs (and other animals) in China and everywhere else around the world. Our donations to the RSPCA in connection with sales of the Year of the Dog mat is just a small part of this effort. If you don’t need a new yoga mat, please consider donating directly if you can afford to. And, just sharing this post with your friends can also make a big difference. Thank you.
Lokah Samastah Sukinoh Bhavantu.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free.