Despite heavy domestic and international pressure, vendors and restaurants continue to sell dog meat at the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival — though perhaps not as much as in the past.
Business at the 10-day festival, which kicked off yesterday, seems to be waning. Some of those who used to frequent the festival have given up eating dog meat because of “moral pressure” from others, state media reports. Xinhua quotes one Yulin butcher as saying: “Business is especially bad this year. I could sell over 30 dogs every day in previous years, but now I can only sell five at the most.” This contrasts with AFP’s earlier report that all the international attention was helping to publicize the festival, increasing dog meat sales.
Once again this year, the Yulin government is trying to shrink the festival, forbidding its employees from attending and shutting down some dog markets and slaughterhouses. To keep things even more low-key, they have also banned the public slaughter of dogs and instructed vendors to cover up the character for “dog” on their signboards. However, officials have not banned the festival altogether, as suggested by a petition filed earlier this month with an unprecedented 11 million signatures, as well as Matt Damon and Leona Lewis.
Though the government claims to have no ties with the festival, police officers patrol the market and approach every dog-lover who shows up, reports the Global Times. One activist claimed that 10 policemen harassed her for 4 hours after she purchased 13 dogs. Photography is forbidden inside the markets, and whoever takes out a camera is approached by vendors and asked to delete any photos. He or she is then escorted out and not allowed to reenter the market.
Still, activist groups are busy trying to rescue as many dogs as they can. The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation released recently a video showing volunteers rescuing over 1,000 dogs from slaughterhouses in Yulin.
On the other hand, there is also a growing backlash towards the animal activists. On Weibo, some netizens argued that “even if you don’t eat dog meat, you should respect others’ right to eat dog meat.” At the same time, others, including Chinese musician Hao Yun, argued that standing by and doing nothing would only permit the slaughter to continue.
One Weibo user authored a popular post mocking typical arguments made by protesters each year before the annual dog meat festival — which is officially called the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival:
“I firmly oppose the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival. Lychees are man’s best friends. Please don’t hurt lychees. I warn you all, I don’t care about anyone eating dogs, but I will kill whoever eats lychees. […] Lychees are so cute, yet you violently tear off their red clothing, recklessly play with their white torso, and, in the end, even swallow them whole!”
However, protests against Yulin extend beyond the argument that “dogs are friends, not food.” The dogs consumed in the festival are often prepared without safety in mind. The Deputy Secretary-General of the China Meat Association told Xinhua News that there is no industry in China that specifically raises dogs for their meat due to expensive costs. According to the Animals Asia Foundation, the dog meat supply mostly consists of domestic dogs and stray dogs that are stolen and sometimes poisoned with cyanide. In the past, dog meat traders have been arrested for selling tons of poisonous dog meat.
Experts have also warned about the risk of spreading diseases such as rabies in the Yulin dog meat festival. According to Xinhua, the city of Yulin has one of the highest rates of rabies in China.
By Amy Yang
[Images via Global Times]