Every year, the residents of Yulin, a small city in southern China, hold a dog meat festival to celebrate the summer solstice. This year’s event falls on this Friday, June 21, and animal rights activists have launched a huge effort to stop this “bloody celebration.”
Activists have protested on Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter, which is banned there) and also rapped against it, emphasizing that dogs are human’s friends and companions. One activist, “Alalei” (as she identified herself on a pet forum), created a White House petition that was headlined “please help us stop the Yulin Festival of eating dogs in Guangxi province. It is bloody and disregards life.” As she says in the South China Morning Post, “this petition isn’t meant for political reasons. I simply hope our government will stop turning a blind eye to this horrible tradition.”
According to local culture, eating dog meat can ward off disease and “evil spirits,” as well as increase men’s sexual performance. A program by Yulin TV shows residents eating dog meat and exhorting its benefits. In a grisly scene, a chef is shown butchering a dead dog (one of many on a table in his restaurant kitchen) and cooking it.
Yulin is not the only city where dog meat is widely consumed. People in Zhejiang, Guangxi and Guangdong province are “also known to be avid consumers of dog meat,” according to the South China Morning Post.
Mo Yingran, an animal rights activist based in Guangzhou, actually sought to investigate the festival last year. Posing as a potential investor, he was able to gain access to the Yulin government’s headquarters. When he explained his and other activists’ objections to the dog meat event, he was told that “they had to respect local culture, and would be willing to launch a public awareness campaign to remind people of the risks of eating unhealthy meat.” Yulin officials refused to ban the event and insisted that they had had nothing to do with organizing it.
Mo’s concern about the health risks of eating dog meat stem from his investigations into where and how suppliers for the Yulin event acquired the dog meat. While the government claims that it comes from local farmers who raise dogs specifically to be butchered, it is thought that more than a few of the dogs are strays or have been abducted from other parts of China. Notably, one seller whom Mo was questioning at a market “became suspicious and refused to answer his questions.”
Many dogs sold to restaurants have been stolen from homes or taken from the streets. They are then brought to cities via cages loaded onto dirty and overcrowded trucks. As many of these animals are ill — with rabies or other contagious diseases — they could indeed pose real risks to consumers.
Commenting that “culture and tradition should not be used as an excuse for brutality,” Deng says that the Animals Asia Foundation has sent a letter to the Yulin government.
Alalei’s White House petition was recently taken down as it failed to gather the 100,000 signatures needed for a response from the Obama administration. It seems to be too late to stop this year’s June 21 event in Yulin. Creating a White House petition was an “unorthodox method frowned upon by the country’s police and censors,” as the South China Morning Post says. But it does show the determination of animal rights activists to put a stop to the Yulin event.
By spreading the word about what amounts to a celebration of cruelness, we can help activists in China end a tradition that has gone on for too long.
Photo via ming1967/Flickr