The upcoming Yulin dog meat festival promises to look a little different this time around from years past, with zero dogs being beaten to death on the roadsides.
Yulin officials came to this decision in response to a letter from Michael Tien Puk-sun, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, which urged government intervention to end the festival. While they aren’t going to end the festival, officials were apparently convinced by Tien’s arguments for food safety, banning the slaughter of dogs in public, 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. Apparently, these officials only just now found out.
However, dogs can still be beaten to death in the city’s slaughterhouses. In the lead up to the infamous festival in Yulin, Guangxi, which begins next Tuesday, Humane Society International rescued 34 dogs and cats from one of these slaughterhouses.
Local officials explain that it is difficult to immediately ban the consumption of dog meat or the killing of dogs because of the lack of laws regulating these actions. Tien says that he plans to push for the adoption of animal abuse laws next. SCMP quotes him as saying: “[Mainland officials] indicated that there would be a lot of resistance if I proposed a ban on eating dogs … But they said there was no reason not to [prohibit] animal abuse.”
Of course, Tien isn’t the only one working to end the festival. Widespread domestic and international pressure has been credited with shrinking the festival in recent years; however, all the media attention has also served to publicize the event. AFP reports that Yulin locals claim that dog-meat sales have increased since last year and a Yulin dog shelter operator believes that international protests are driving people to “ferociously defend their custom” of eating dog meat.
An editorial published yesterday in the Global Times agrees, arguing that it would be a “violation of human rights” if the tradition of eating dog meat was forcefully abandoned, and concluding that: “Eating dog meat will be a long-standing controversy, and opposition from Westerners will continue increasing the heat of the debate. This question will only be resolved gradually by itself. Any instigation should not be encouraged.”
Peter Li from Humane Society International, the aforementioned activist group that also recently organized a petition against the festival with more than 11 million signatures, recognizes that there may be a backlash to outside efforts in the short term. “But in the long term, I don’t worry,” he says.
By Amy Yang