ANIMAL RIGHTS

Chinese city goes ahead with annual dog-meat eating festival despite protests

As many as 10,000 dogs are expected to be killed during the event in Yulin, with organisers saying eating dog meat helps people maintain a healthy metabolism

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2016, 4:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2016, 4:18pm

A city in southern China went ahead with an annual dog-meat eating festival on Tuesday despite heavy criticism and protests from animal rights activists.

Vendors slaughtered dogs and cooked their meat in dozens of restaurants across the city of Yulin, at an event that has come to symbolise the cruelty and potential for spreading disease associated with the largely unregulated industry.

We came to Yulin to tell people here dogs are our friends. They should not kill dogs in such a cruel way and many of the dogs they killed are pet dogs
Yang Yuhua, animal rights volunteer

Activists bought dogs from dealers who had been planning to slaughter them, while local residents complained that outsiders were ruining what they consider a local tradition.

“We came to Yulin to tell people here dogs are our friends,” said Yang Yuhua, a volunteer from the central city of Chongqing. “They should not kill dogs in such a cruel way and many of the dogs they killed are pet dogs.”

An estimated 10 million to 20 million dogs are killed for their meat each year in China, and the Yulin event has become a lightning rod for criticism.

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Many of the dogs are believed to have been pets stolen from their owners or simply picked up off the street.

The so-called dog-meat eating festival has never been officially recognised by government or by any regulations or laws
Yulin city government official

They are stuffed in cages, and trucked to the city about 2,000km south of Beijing in the province of Guangxi, often without food or water.

Cats eaten at the festival are subjected to similar ill treatment.

The local government has in recent years sought to disassociate itself from the event, forbidding its employees from attending and limiting its size by shutting down some dog markets and slaughter houses.

“The so-called dog-meat eating festival has never been officially recognised by government or by any regulations or laws,” said an official reached by telephone at the city government’s general office.

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“We hold meetings every time before the so-called festival, discussing counter measures such as deploying local police, business and sanitary authorities to inspect and deal with those who sell dogs,” said the official, who like many Chinese bureaucrats would give only his surname, Liu, because he was not authorised to speak to reporters.

Opponents this year expanded their campaign to the United States, petitioning politicians in San Francisco to pressure their Chinese colleagues into calling for an end to the slaughter.

It’s been a tradition for years for us to celebrate the festival. We can’t change it simply because [animal lovers] love dogs
Yulin resident

As many as 10,000 dogs are believed to be killed during the event, which falls around the summer solstice that arrived on Monday this year. Promoters say eating dog meat during the summer helps ward off the heat and maintain a healthy metabolism.

“It’s been a tradition for years for us to celebrate the festival. We can’t change it simply because they [animal lovers] love dogs,” a local resident said.

“They don’t want us to eat dog meat. We eat dog meat to celebrate the festival, but since they’ve come here, they’ve ruined our mood completely.”

Opponents say the festival is cruel and has no redeeming cultural value.

Another animal rights activist, Chen Chun, said the push to end the Yulin festival was part of a larger campaign to pass legislation banning animal cruelty.

A draft animal cruelty law remains mired in China’s legislature and prosecution of dog thieves and those violating animal transport laws remains lax, activists complain.

“Our ultimate goal is that the country can make a law to protect animals, especially dogs here,” Chen said.

Activists debated and argued with local residents, with police intervening at times to prevent any physical confrontations.

Activists said rallies held around the country to oppose dog eating, as well as outrage on social media from the growing ranks of dog lovers, are already having an effect.

Dog meat restaurants have been forced to take the festival indoors and large-scale open air dog-meat consumption is no longer seen.

Along with the question of animal cruelty, dog meat also posed a risk to human health by spreading diseases such as trichinellosis, rabies and cholera, the Humane Society said.

Guangxi is already one of China’s five worst areas affected by human rabies, and Yulin ranked as one of the top 10 Chinese cities in terms of cases, the organisation said.