Animal rights activists are getting an early start this year in voicing their passionate opposition to the infamous annual Yulin dog meat festival, where thousands of dogs are slaughtered on the streets each year to be eaten.
Each June, thousands visit Yulin, Guangxi to take part in the city’s signature festival celebrating the consumption of man’s best friend. Protests have become just as much of a yearly tradition as the dog slaughter itself with activists casting the festival as antiquated, cruel and unhygienic. Once again, this year, a slew of animal rights organizations are teaming up to stop the event once and for all.
Critics like Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association, are opposed to the festival, because it promotes the theft of pets, while also being dangerous to human health, SCMP reports. In the past, experts have found that the unregulated mass slaughter of canines can increase the risk of spreading and contracting diseases like rabies.
The Humane Society International estimates that 10,000 to 20,000 dogs are slaughtered to be eaten each year in China, a significant and high-profile portion at Yulin.
Peter Li, China specialist at Humane Society International, says that the annual protest campaigns are working to help stave off the slaughter with only 2,000 dogs killed during the three-day festival last year; compared to more than 10,000 in 2012 and 2013.
Li explains that local officials are feeling the pressure put on by animal rights groups, reacting by shutting down some markets and slaughterhouses and declining to attend the festivities themselves, China Daily reports. Yet again, the Humane Society International will team up with at least five other international groups this year to write directly to Beijing about closing down the festival for good.
Yu Hongmei, director of the VShine Animal Protection Association, believes that China should also go along with other developed nations and ban the eating of dogs and cats all together, according to the AP.
“China needs to progress with the times,” Yu said. “Preventing cruelty to animals is the sign of a mature, civilized society.”
Meanwhile, Yu Dezhi, secretary general of Animal Protection Power, believes that progress will come soon enough with few young people choosing to eat dog nowadays.
However, inevitably some will refuse to change their diets. Supporters of the festival argue that is an undeniably part of local culture in rural Guangxi. But critics shoot back that the festival itself was in fact started in 2010, in a straightforward effort to increase tourism and sales.
The dogs are trucked into Yulin from hundreds of miles away, stuffed in crates without food or water. Slaughter often takes place in public, right in front dogs awaiting the same fate. Vendors usually use a club to do the deed, believing that the meat is tastier when full of adrenaline.
Last year’s event saw a high amount of international attention, with Western celebrities and domestic ones alike speaking out. One online petition circulated in the weeks before even gathered 3 million signatures calling for the event’s closure.
Still, huge crowds of vendors and customers showed up at Yulin in June, purchasing, butchering and eating dogs in the street as before.
Some activists attended the festival to rescue the condemned animals. One group of 11 volunteers spent some 500,000 yuan purchasing 1,381 dogs. However, many of the dogs that were rescued did not end up much better off. By September, at one shelter only 400 of some 1,400 dogs rescued from the Yulin dog meat festival had survived with low funding and little help.