This was a fair question that deserved a fair answer.
What has a UK charity that claims to fight the trade in dog meat done with donations to an appeal?
Seems like the sort of thing that there’s no harm in asking, doesn’t it?
But instead of reasonable replies, animal welfare campaigners who have raised questions have been met with shocking online abuse.
At the centre of this vitriolic controversy is the charity World Protection for Dogs and Cats in the Meat Trade, better known simply as No To Dog Meat.
Earlier this year it launched an appeal to raise funds to save animals destined for the notorious Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China .
Specifically, it said the money would be sent to retired teacher Yang Xiaoyun – known as Mrs Yang – whose many efforts to save dogs have brought her worldwide attention.
More than £80,000 has been raised, but only around £10,000 of this charity money has reached Mrs Yang.
Asking where the rest has gone proved…risky!
Among those concerned by this is academic, animal writer and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society Dr Daniel Allen who asked what has happened to the balance.
“This polite line started my personal experience of online abuse,” he said.
One Facebook user warned of retaliation, saying, “I have a blog” and “I can also ring your workplace and report you for bringing Keele University into disrepute”.
It was no idle threat.
An online petition was launched reading “Investigate and Prosecute Keele University Professor Dr Dan Allen for abuse to women/bullying”.
This baseless smear was deleted by the petition platform after attracting just 10 signatures.
So, it actually was an idle threat. But no matter, as a registered charity, it has obligations.
Dr Allen meanwhile is sticking to his guns, telling No To Dog Meat that it cannot divert the donations to some other purpose: “Legally, if this money is not going to the named recipient – Mrs Yang – it must be returned to the donors”.
Similar abuse has been received by Downton Abbey actor Peter Egan, who has been a passionate voice for animals for many years and is patron of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare.
An anonymous online group put him on the spot, asking him if he supported No To Dog Meat. “I posted ‘no I do not support or trust No To Dog Meat’,” replied Peter, who described the charity to me as “a rather ramshackle protest group”.
He said: “That opened the door to the torrent of abuse that came my way.
“I was called a disgusting has-been, a ‘brown envelope’ charity supporter, meaning I’d only support a charity if I got a backhander.”
Now, he’s a mad old biddy on the subject of animals, but he’s not wrong here, is he? This is no way for a reputable charity to behave.
My questions to No To Dog Meat were first answered by someone called Joanne, a campaign team volunteer.
She claimed that they stopped sending money to Mrs Yang because she had not used any it to save animals and is “connected to the dog meat mafia” .
I have no evidence to suggest that there’s any truth in these statements which would appear to be defamatory.
Similar allegations were repeated by the charity’s chief executive, Julia de Cadenet, who also spoke of a “structured hate campaign led by several known cyber trolls”.
She added: “The Charity Commission is satisfied we are compliant.”
The Charity Commission, meanwhile, says ‘Whoa, hold on there…’
The Commission said it is assessing “concerns” about the charity: “We have not concluded that assessment and cannot comment further at this time.”
No To Dog Meat says that it is consulting lawyers here and in China.
I would hate it if the donations went astray.
I would hate it even more if the main beneficiaries were lawyers.
Somehow, they often…indeed, always….are!