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Frequently asked questions:
What is the YuLin dog & cat meat festival?
It is a few days and nights of feasting, bonding and drinking. The main ingredients are lychees, dog meat, cat meat and lychee wine. Around 10,000 dogs and 4,000 cats will be eaten during this week long festival that starts on the 21st June (summer solstice.)
Where is YuLin?
YuLin is in a region called Guangxi in the People's Republic of China. This region is an autonomous region. This means YuLin is not governed in the same way the rest of China is.
When does the festival take place?
Preparations start at the beginning of June, several weeks before the 21st by organising how the dogs and cats will be brought into YuLin. Stalls need to be organised, slaughterhouses need to ensure paperwork is in order. (Several illegal slaughterhouses were shut down prior to the festival this year.)
There were reports in 2014 that some people had a version of the festival a couple of weeks beforehand to avoid media attention. The feasting is usually an all night drinking affair on 21st June (the hottest day and the summer solstice.) It is unclear how long the festival lasts. In previous years it has been a week long celebration but in 2014 with the festival being brought it was apparently cut short. These facts coupled with heavy the censoring by the Chinese government, leaves the actual length of the festival at question.
Who attends the festival?
Due to all the hype and advertising, people travel from other areas of China including Wuzhou, Guigang, Nanning, Beihai and Qinzhou to YuLin to experience the festival atmosphere.
How do the dogs get there and where are they from?
Some are trucked in on lorries with quarantine certificates (under scrutiny many are discovered to be falsified.) Other dog and cat smugglers avoid main roads using motorcycles to get the animals into YuLin without the required paperwork. Sadly some owners bring their unwanted pets into YuLin to make a profit.
There is CCTV footage of dogs being stolen from properties and there are reports of dogs being poisoned with darts and crossbows. We are also reliably informed that some dogs could quite possibly be breeder's unsold stock & unsold pets from pet shops.
How are cats treated for the festival?
There are no cat farms so the vast majority of the cats we see on the stalls at YuLin have usually been trapped, abused and stored in crates or sacks in warehouses by middlemen before being trucked into town. The cats are used as a garnish to the dog meat dishes. There is a belief in China that freshness is key to quality (there is no refrigeration) so this is the reason for keeping them alive and suffering so they die just prior to being consumed.
Why are the dog tortured? (Graphic description)
The torture begins with a rough capture and cramped transport conditions, exposed to the elements (no refreshment so they are dehydrated) and the dogs and cats will bite each other if being crushed. No care is taken unloading cages so limbs are shattered. This carelessness is for speed and maximum profit.
Dogs are beaten to the head to render them inactive, some slaughterers are more skilled than others, sometimes it takes many strikes. The throat or chest is cut and the blood is drained, the blood will drain quicker as the heart is still beating. They are thrown into plucking machines with boiling water to spin off the fur, again often at this point the animal is still not dead so effectively they are being boiled alive.
Those vendors without the expensive dog plucking machines will remove fur by either dangling the dog from a hook and skinning them while still warm. Another method is rubbing off the fur after repeatedly dipping them into hot water whilst clamping their necks with long handled metal tongs. Torture is guaranteed for dogs and cats.
Why is eating dog and cat meat so important that it needs a festival?
It is the Lychee that is specific to YuLin and it needs promoting. Some bright spark recently decided that the combination of dog and cat meat, lychees along with the wine (both considered warming foods) would be an explosive combination to promote good health. Within a few months this folklore was touted as an ancient tradition.
Many people world-wide love any excuse for a party or festival where crowds gather. It is a great opportunity to network and make new friends and business colleagues. This 'event' has been heavily promoted as having a wonderful atmosphere where the streets are carpeted in red lychee skins and colourful canopies.
The drink is a local specially produced lychee wine and the food is recommended as health-giving. The businesses have hyped up this event to bring people into YuLin under the guise of this magical festival improving their blood flow (fertility and keeping warm in winter) if consumed at Summer Solstace. YuLin businesses make a lot of money from this festival, so they are of course reluctant to bring it to an end.
Is rabies a problem?
YuLin has been highlighted as having a higher than average proportion of rabies than any other regions. Dogs being transported into YuLin without quarantine certificates are a worry as they can spread disease to local dogs. Dog meat traders are at the greatest risk of contracting rabies; being bitten while handling the dogs. Rabies is cooked out of meat but the poor hygiene practises in YuLin means that live dogs are in close proximity to cooked meat. Parasites, toxins and viruses in the food chain are more alarming in the 'meat' of dogs and cats.
Is eating diseased dog meat harmful?
Doctors in Vietnam are coming forward with recent studies about parasitic worms common in dog and cat meat causing long term gastrointestinal problems. Concerns have been raised about the Sars virus originating from birds, this could get carried to humans who eat cat meat and now we learn that bats (eaten by cats) are carriers of Ebola. It is widely recognised that carnivores are dangerous in the human food chain due to biomagnification and the build up of toxic metals that cannot be cooked out.
Understandably the dogs are under immense stress throughout their ordeal and their bodies will produce abnormal levels of the stress hormone called Cortisol. This hormone also can not be cooked out so consumption of the dogs meat will lead to unsafe levels of cortisol entering the human body. The side affects of this hormone are; cardiac problems, impotency and general fatigue. The very same symptoms the dog meat is promoted to help.
Do the government condone this?
The YuLin Government deny existence of 'the YuLin Festival' as we call it. For 2014 they took the following steps to appease the growing number of complaints:
- Restaurants were asked to cover over signage advertising dog meat for sale during June.
- Restaurants were asked to all display posters reminding consumers to take care when dining publicly and to be aware of the origin of what you eat.
- Doctors and food safety staff in YuLin were told not to eat dog meat during June.
When did the festival originate?
The huge festival as we know it was heavily promoted in 2010 by media as being good for health. The region is famous for growing lychee. Businessmen promoted dog meat and lychee as warming foods that compliment each other and health properties were promoted.
Are there Chinese activists helping?
There are thousands of animal loving activists all over China posting pictures and making statements on social media condemning the YuLin Festival. A few activists who are media savvy, travel to YuLin to try to protest there and get footage to bring further public outrage to the festival. However activism is made hard by businesses feeling threatened and the town filling up with so many people wanting to participate in the festival.
Do we have any hope of stopping the festival?
With enough people plausibly speaking out against this festival and exposing the cruelty, sadness of those with missing pets and the corruption of officials and businessmen putting health at risk for profits is pushing a ban in the right direction. We are hopeful that the CHINESE Government will feel pressure from other Governments, media, celebrities and the world's public and will intervene to appease the rest of the world.
Thank you for being a constant supporter of #StopYuLin2015
#StopYulin2015 STOP Dog Meat Festival in China.
Dining on Dogs in Yulin: VICE Reports (Part 1/2). Watch Video↓
Dining on Dogs in Yulin: VICE Reports (Part 2/2)
Dog meat festival in China
In China,Yulin, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, there is a tradition?that has lasted for 600?years. A brutal Dog Meat Festival commences on June 21th each year.
Animal lovers, local traditionalists face off at dog meat festival
It is estimated that over 10,000 dogs were killed during the one-day event. Animal rights activists said the dogs are often strays or stolen from their owners in the countryside and might carry diseases that can be passed on to human beings. However, local officials say all the dogs are bred on farms.
The ancient practice of eating dog has become increasingly distasteful for China's growing number of pet lovers and this year's dog meat festival has come in for particularly virulent criticism.
Yulin faces choiceThe name of Yulin, a southern city home to 6 million people, is now linked with its controversial dog eating. This summer solstice tradition by local residents began in the late 1990s when the trend of eating dog meat spread from the countryside to the city. As more and more dog meat restaurants opened, residents would invite their friends to go out and enjoy dog hotpot served with lychees and strong liquor."You can smell Yulin before entering the city," a local resident named Ma told the Global Times. She left her hometown a decade ago and still thinks fondly of it.
A few years ago, dogs were butchered in public to show that the meat was fresh and answer other concerns about whether the meat had been stored in refrigerators.
""We have written to the local authorities to lodge our complaints and to outline the cruelty involved and the dangers of eating dog meat," said Suki Deng, Animals Asia China's cat and dog welfare manager. "Each year opposition to the event grows and the publicity surrounding the event becomes less favorable."
Another 20 animal protection organizations also wrote an open letter to the Yulin government calling for the cancelation of the festival.
"It is not just an issue for Yulin, it is important for the safety of dogs all over the country," it said. "We hope the local government can crack down on underground dog theft and reduce the consumption of dog meat."
Yulin authorities earlier stated the matter was out of their hands as the festival is organized by local people, not the government.
More and more animal rights activists have been converging on Yulin to protest in front of dog-eaters.
Last year, artist Pian Shankong knelt down in front of a pile of dead dogs in Yulin to beg for forgiveness of the sins of those who killed them.
This year, led by Du Yufeng, founder of Chinese animal rights group Boai Small Animal Protection Center, several volunteers protested outside Yulin's most famous dog meat market, carrying a banner saying "Stop the cruelty, do not eat dogs and cats."
Their protest soon drew notice and the restaurant owner confronted the protesters while trying to wrench the banner away.
The mood of the crowd seemed to favor the festival as onlookers asked "we eat chicken, pork and beef, why not dog meat? It is not against the law."
There are no animal welfare laws in China. The ministry of Agriculture issued a regulation in April, requesting local governments to strengthen cat and dog quarantine measures to control the spread of diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. In response to this, the Yulin government doubled down on its insistence that all dogs eaten at the festival were raised on dog farms.
But one local butcher told the Global Times that he does not pay much attention to the safety issue.
"It is the government's job to decide whether it is ok to eat dog or not, my job is to kill them and make money, I don't ask where they come from," he said.
Li Junqing, head of Yulin's food and drug administration, was spotted at the festival. His loyalties were quite clear. "If you try to stop people from eating dog meat, they might greet you with a knife," he was quoted as saying the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News as saying.
Not all locals favor eating the dog meat. Tangwei Lingling, 24, said she never eats dog meat, helped animal rights activists with their campaign and acted as a guide to show them how to find the black dog meat market.
"I have two dogs at home, I feel really sad to see how dogs are cruelly killed and eaten. As a local I need to do something to stop them," she told the Global Times.
Animal lover Lisa from Shenyang, Liaoning Province came all the way to join Du's campaign in Yulin after seeing pictures of dogs being skinned.
"Our protest doesn't seem to make a difference because there are too many dog eaters and not so many protesters," she said.
However, the protest blazed a trail across the Internet. A month before the festival, animal lovers petitioned the While House's website, demanding an end be put to the tradition.
"Please help us stop the Yulin festival of eating dogs in Guangxi. It is bloody and disregards life," said the petition created on May 12 and that has collected about 800 signatures.
Online opposition has been further boosted with celebrities joining the cause.
None of this seems to have phased local residents who have not been put off their canine treats. "Let's keep eating, let reporters take photos and show outsiders how to celebrate the festival" was the general sentiment around town.
However, some restaurant owners told the Global Times that their business had worsened due to the ongoing protests.
"There are rumors saying some people are going to come and put us in jail for killing dogs," one restaurant owner named Zhou said. "Our business is legal, I hope outsiders can show some respect for our tradition."
It seems restaurants don't necessarily need to change their menus anytime soon as volunteers have been trying to buy the dogs' freedom.
Activists pooled together nearly 100,000 yuan to buy the freedom of 450 dogs from the festival, which brings up another problem: what to do with the dogs that are freed.
"The butcher holding a stick in his hands asks you only one question: will you buy it or let it be killed? We didn't have a choice," Du told the Global Times. "Now we are calling for more volunteers to take care of these dogs as many of them are sick."
The tradition is not unique to Yulin. Other places in China such as Zhejiang and Guangdong Province are also known for eating dog meat.
In ancient China, dog meat was considered a medicine that could warm up the body and boost male fertility.
But not all authorities have been as stubborn as those in Yulin. In 2011, the government in Zhejiang Province cancelled a dog meat festival held every October in the wake of animal rights protests.
"A festival can bring economic benefits to a city, but if it poses a threat to people's health and ruins the city's reputation, it's not really worth it,"Professor Sun Jiang from the Northwest University of Politics and Law told the Global Times.
Xie Changping, deputy director of the Guangxi Traditional Culture Research Institute, argues that eating dog meat "is just a traditional habit. Why dowe have to follow Western values on this?"
"Eating dog meat is dwindling worldwide, it's behind the times," Zhang told the Global Times, "It may be hard to see this habit die out and the biggest challenge will be changing people's minds."
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★STOP the summer solstice June 21st DOG MEAT FESTIVAL YULIN !!!
★Presidente de China Xi Jinping: Eliminar la matanza de perros para consumo humano / President of China Xi Jinping: Remove the slaughter of dogs for human consumption
★Please Shut Down The Yulin Dog Meat Festival
STOP YULIN DOG MEAT FESTIVAL FROM WORLD (Non Graphic)
PROTESTA STOP YULIN 2015 EMBAJADA DE CHINA EN MEXICO ３/２２/２０１５
Ambassador: Mr. Wu Hongbo
Address: Markisches Ufer 54, 10179 Berlin, Germany
Office Hours: 08:30-12:30, 13:30-17:00 Monday-Friday
■Chinese embassy in Rome Italy
Ambassador: Mr. Ding Wei (Concurrently Ambassador to San Marino)
Address: No. 56, Via Bruxelles, 00198 Roma, Italy
Ambassador: Mr. Zeng Gang
Address: Avenida Rio Magdalena No.172, Colonia Tizapan, C.P. 01090 Mexico, D.F.
Ambassador: Mr. Cheng Yonghua
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………END THE DOG MEAT TRADE
Join HSI's campaign dedicated to - like what's happening in Yulin right now -- and improving life for street dogs around the world. As a Street Dog Defender, you’ll be part of a special community that helps , provide services like to humanely manage overpopulation, to prevent the spread of rabies, and more. Simply complete this secure form to give now. Thank you!
★Petition to Stop the Dog Meat Festival
After a long day in YuLin, the 2014 Dog Meat Festival proceeded as scheduled on June 21st. However, it was executed on a smaller scale than in previous years. The Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project managed to save 80 dogs from being slaughtered.
Ian Somerhalder Crusades Against Cruel Dog Meat Festival
Poor Ian Somerhalder has his work cut out trying to campaign for all of the creatures that he cares for so much. Just last week the Vampire Diaries actor seemed close to breaking point over the killing of an elephant, and now he has another battle to fight.
A dog meat festival in China.
The Vampire Diaries actor was clearly horrified when he heard about the event and went on to spread the news with his 5 million Twitter followers;
The dog meat festival in question takes place in Yulin, China. The ancient dog meat festival has been occurring to celebrate the Summer Solstice every year for generations.
Chinese actress Sun Li also raised awareness alongside joined many other Chinese celebrities calling for the boycott of a festival. She posted a picture of her young son with his dogs along with the caption;
The dog is man's most intimate and loyal friend, and I love dogs, I even regard them as part of my family. My children have learned love from the adoption of stray dogs. I hope people in Yulin, Guangxi will not indulge in eating dog any more
Although the dog meat festival is over for this year, hopefully with the help of Ian Somerhalder and other celebrity activists, this will be the last one...
Jay Chou condemns Yulin Dog Meat Festival, calls it 'absurd' and 'deplorable'
By Ryan Kilpatrick
Pian Shankong, a 40-year-old performance artist, squats in his underwear inside a dog cage in front of a dog butcher at a wholesale market in Guiyang city, capital of Southwest China’s Guizhou province, on Dec 19, 2011, urging people to not eat dogs. Since last year, Pian has traveled around many places in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in Southwest China to call for the public to love the animals.
Canine controversy: Chinese festival serves up dog meat
Dog meat festival celebrated despite mounting protests
5 Things You Need to Know About China’s Dog-Eating Festival
The influx of hundreds of animal rights activists and dog lovers to Yulin, Guangxi during the past month appeared to have an impact, with local officials lowering the profile of yesterday's much-criticised dog-eating festival.
Consumption of dog meat at Yulin's restaurants is believed to have decreased significantly from last year, local restaurants and market operators say.
The run-up to the festival saw a series of confrontations between locals and animal right activists. On Friday night, more than 100 restaurant owners, residents and dog traders surrounded four animal right activists for at least an hour. The activists had to call the police to take them away as no taxi would carry them.
At midnight on Friday, the eve of the festival, activists went around the city to search slaughterhouses that they expected would be in full swing. Instead they found them closed.
Yesterday morning, activists held banners and posters in front of the Yulin government headquarters proclaiming "Yulin, I cry for you today" and calling for greater food safety. The protest ended after several policemen and residents confronted the activists. "Get out of Yulin!" some plain-clothes policemen were heard shouting.
As they protested, dog meat stalls in Dongkou, home to Yulin's biggest wet market, were crowded with local customers. Seven or eight dog carcasses hunging from each stand. But a taxi driver said the throngs of dog meat vendors seen at almost every busy intersection last year were absent. "They have all gone this year," the driver said. "And far fewer residents went to restaurants today as well."
Traditionally, people in Yulin celebrate the summer solstice by eating dog meat and lychees washed down by strong liquor. Each June in recent years, more than 10,000 dogs were slaughtered for the festival as tourists flooded the streets to enjoy the feasting.
The Yulin city government has always insisted that it does not support or sponsor the festival, saying the event was something businesses and local people invented. It is not an official holiday.
This year authorities took additional measures to play down the event, which they believe tarnishes the city's image.
"A large number of lawyers, scholars and activists from more than 60 animal rights associations have visited the city to investigate the festival. It has already raised a nationwide debate on whether people should call for an end to the practice, citing cruelty, local customs, the black market and food safety," said Zhang Yuanyuan, China director of Act Asia, an animal protection organisation based in the UK.
Earlier this month, the Yulin government declared that it did not sponsor the event and would strictly enforce food safety regulations. Civil servants, teachers and medical staff were also ordered not to eat dog meat at restaurants. And restaurants serving dog meat were ordered to cover the word "dog" on their signs.
From late last week, imports to Yulin of live dogs from provinces that did not carry out laboratory testing of the animals were banned. Vendors were also banned from slaughtering dogs at wet markets or on the street.
Authorities also told vendors to reduce dog meat sales as some restaurant owners said they had received dozens of threatening phone calls and messages from dog lovers.
"Officials have been ordered not to eat dog meat at restaurants. And some crazy unidentified people broke down the door of our slaughterhouses and stalls and stole our dogs. They are actually the robbers and are breaking the law," said an owner of one of the city's most popular restaurants.
She said business was down by about a third after the confrontation between locals and animal rights ac tivists.
Some residents said they had already gathered last weekend to eat dog meat and lychees in celebration of the year's longest day, despite yesterday being the summer solstice.
"My husband is a policeman and I also work at a state-run company. We don't want trouble. But we don't want to give up the most important local customs," resident Zhang Bing said. "So we went to my mother-in-law's home at a remote village last weekend and ate dog meat with family and friends.
"The dogs we eat are raised by local villagers just like pigs and chicken," she said. "The summer solstice tradition of eating dog and lychees has been long held in the countryside. It became a festival as more and more dog meat restaurants opened in Yulin in the past decades. Residents would invite friends to go out and enjoy dog meat hot pot there.
"Yulin people eat dog meat in all seasons, just like Cantonese eat chicken every day and foreigners eat beef. I miss last summer when friends got together and enjoyed dog meat and lychees at the crowded restaurants at night. It did look like a wonderful festival."
According to research carried out over a year at Yulin's dog meat market, released by the Guangdong-based animal rights NGO Best Volunteer Centre, the city had more than 100 slaughterhouses, processing between 30 and 100 dogs a day.
"We believe 99 per cent of these dogs in Yulin were stolen from other provinces and transported to Yulin illegally, instead of being raised at legal dog farms," said Huang Shandai, the NGO's founder.
According to the the Yulin Centre for Animal Disease Control and Prevention, the city had only eight dog slaughterhouses, selling about 200 dogs a day but reaching about 2,000 dogs during the summer solstice, Xinhua reported.
Most dogs sold in Yulin were healthy and raised in nearby villages, the report said, rather than being stolen from other provinces as the animal-lovers claimed.
Dogged resistance: Animal activists at the Yulin dog meat festival
Photo: Brett Allan
◆China Dog Meat Festival: Protests Begin as 10,000 Sign Petition Banning Yulin Feast
Retailers said animal rights groups and campaigners have been entering the city in the hope of saving dogs and putting a stop to the annual event.
The feast, which includes eating dog hotpot and lychees, is due to take place on 21 June to mark the summer solstice, although some locals have had the feast early to avoid protests.
According to Xinhua news agency, activists searching for dog slaughterhouses stopped a motorcyclist carrying eight animals. He eventually agreed to sell the dogs for 1,150 yuan (£110). They also bought six puppies at a dog market for 1,200 yuan.
Dog lover Yang Yuhua, 64, said: "As long as we can save one dog, we will do it."
While many locals have said it is their right to hold the event – there is no law against eating dog meat – retailers said the national and international condemnation has led to fewer people celebrating.
"My grandfather, my father and I all sell dog meat. I could sell dozens of dogs a day last year during this time, but I only sold a few this year," one of the retailers said.
The protesting comes as a petition signed by 10,000 people was delivered to the Chinese government calling for the Yulin dog meat festival to be banned.
Humane Society International UK delivered the petition to the Chinese Ambassador in London.
In a letter, also sent to Chinese ambassadors in the US, Canada, Yulin and Guangxi, said: "Since its inception in 2009, the Yulin mass dog slaughter for the summer solstice celebration has attracted worldwide criticism.
"Right now, dogs are being cruelly bound, confined, trucked and slaughtered over long distances. Mass transport, slaughter, and consumption of dog meat during the summer solstice are high-risk activities against which responsible governments must intervene.
A restaurant owner gestures at animal rights activist Du Yufeng during a verbal fight in Yulin, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on June 21, locally known as "Dog Meat Festival." Photo: Li Hao/GT↓
"Guang Yuan Boai Animal Protection Center "
↓ Ms Du Yufeng ↓
We need your help. Please make a donation on this link and be a part of helping dogs from the meat trade to get a second chance at life. Help Du realise her dream of a bigger shelter which will also have onsite verterinary facilities, sleeping quarters for volunteers to stay with sick animals, gardens for the public to bring their own dogs to relax, a pet cemetery so that bereaved owners can visit their beloved pets graves and an education centre so that conferences can be held on animal welfare.
Please copy and paste this link into your browser and give as much or as little as you can afford. Thank you. youcaring.com/other/Help-Build-A-Bigger-Shelter-For-Bo-ai-Animal-Protection-Centre-Guangyuan-China/40418
Please donate "Guang Yuan Boai Animal Protection Center "
A Chinese animal lover consoles a dog after a convoy of trucks carrying some 500 dogs to be sold as meat, were stopped along a highway in Beijing on early April 17, 2011, and the dogs were later rescued to the China Animal Protection Association. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
China has banned a dog-eating festival that dates back more than 600 years after a Chinese internet uproar over the way dogs are slaughtered, the official Xinhua news agency reports.
Dogs are butchered in the streets of Qianxi township in coastal Zhejiang province to prove the meat is fresh during the ancient festival, which is usually held in October.
The festival marks a local military victory during the Ming dynasty, in which dogs in Qianxi were killed so they would not bark and alert the enemy, state-run Xinhua says.
After the victory, dog meat was served at a celebratory feast, and since then local people have eaten dog meat at temple fairs held during traditional Chinese holidays, Agence France-Presse reported.
"The ancient fair was replaced by a modern commodity fair in the 1980s, but dog eating has been kept as a tradition," Xinhua says.
More from GlobalPost: Can eating dogs be done humanely?
"However, vendors began to butcher dogs in public a few years ago to show their dog meat is fresh and safe, as a way to ease buyers' worry that the meat may be refrigerator-preserved or even contaminated."
Thousands of Chinese internet users criticized the dog-eating festival on social networking sites, and called for the local Qianxi government to intervene.
"The government's quick response should be encouraged. I hope eating dogs will not be a custom there anymore. It's not a carnival, but a massacre," wrote an internet user named "Junchangzai" on a Chinese micro-blogging website, in a post that was "re-tweeted" 100,000 times, Xinhua says.
While dog ownership was banned in China during the Cultural Revolution as a bourgeois habit, it has become increasingly popular with China's growing middle class and one-child families, Reuters says. From Globalpost
To eat, or not to eat dog meat
The controversial annual dog meat-eating festival will be held on the summer solstice (June 21) in Yulin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, when more than 10,000 dogs are likely to be slaughtered and served as hotpots with litchis and strong liquor.
The festival has once again brought China's animal rights activists together, who, in collaboration with some well-known actors, have urged Yulin residents to stop eating dog meat and abolish the festival. This year, however, the confrontation between the groups opposed to and supporting the festival is far more intense, with one citing social and moral norms to prove its point and the other demanding respect for local customs.
In a joint appeal last year, 20 animal protection organizations such as the Research Center for Animal Protection of the Northwest University of Politics and Law and China Small Animal Protection Association have said 2013 revealed a "black chain" of trading in stolen pet and stray dogs to Yulin. Worse, they say, because of lack of strict quarantine inspection, much of the dog meat sold in the market could be infected with rabies or other diseases jeopardizing the health of consumers.
Recent years have seen the emergence of similar animal-related issues - for example, extraction of bear bile and protection of stray dogs and cats in communities. But despite the concerted efforts of animal rights activists, things have not always turned out to be their liking. Waves of protests and resistance have had a social impact, but in most cases they have been temporary with things returning to "normal" after a while, prompting people to wonder whether fundamentals exist to guarantee protection to animals or their struggles will simply end in fruitless quarrels.
The dog meat-eating festival in Yulin is only a local folk custom, without any official sanction, to celebrate the summer solstice. The controversy over the festival reveals the confrontation between traditional customs and the modern idea of animal protection. While defenders of local traditions want to continue them and enjoy the traditional local dishes, animal rights activists want festivals like Yulin to be banned because they believe dogs, as man's best friend, should not be killed for food. With such extremely opposite opinions, the two sides are unlikely to resolve their differences any time soon.
Perhaps they should learn from the example set by South Korea, a country that has a much longer dietary tradition of eating dog meat. In South Korea, people believe that dog meat helps ward off the effects of hot summer days, although the debate over whether South Koreans should continue eating dog meat continues to occupy public space.
Way back in 1988, when Seoul was about to host the Olympic Games, animal protection groups from some countries demanded that South Korea ban the practice of eating dog meat and even "threatened" to boycott the Olympics if such a measure was not taken. To strike a balance between South Koreans' love for dog meat and some foreign countries' and animal rights groups' demand for a ban, the South Korean government forced restaurants selling dog meat to shift from downtown to areas less likely to be frequented by foreigners visiting the country to watch the Olympics Games. And during the 2002 World Cup, which South Korea co-hosted with Japan, a large number of such restaurants in Seoul were either closed down or moved to the city's outskirts or other cities for good.
In China, owing to the legal vacuum on the protection of domestic (or non-wild) animals, banning the dog meat-eating festival will not be a good solution. It requires time to encourage Yulin residents to change their dietary habit. Animal rights activists should respect other people's choice of food in this vast country of more than 50 ethnic groups.
But it is also important for people who eat dog meat to understand animal rights activists' appeal. The local government in Yulin could use the South Korean example to at least control the number of dogs slaughtered on the summer solstice and minimize the negative social effects of the festival.
The author is a writer with China Daily. email@example.com.
Yulin govt denies organizing dog meat festival as opposition grows
Workers unload dogs from a truck at Binjiang Road in Yulin.
The dogs will be butchered before being sent to restaurants. Photo: Li Hao/GT↓
Activists move to halt dog meat festival
A dog howls at its fate at a slaughterhouse in Yulin. Photo: Li Hao/GT↓
Local residents gather at a riverside road in Yulin to eat dog meat on June 21. Photo: Li Hao/GT↓
Stop the YuLin Dog Meat Festival