Each year in June, the Dog Meat Festival commences in Yulin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, in conjunction with the summer solstice. It is thought that yearly, within China 10-20 million dogs are slaughtered for meat, and a further 10-15,000 are tortured and killed during the festival itself.
Whilst international outcry and activism both within and outside of China has reduced the scope of the festival (that only began in 2010), legislation banning it has failed to pass congress. The festival is immensely cruel and largely illegal, given that many of the dogs involved are stolen pets. It is also a huge public health issue, with diseased strays being used and sold for meat too, and as such has been condemned by the World Health Organisation. Eating dog meat has been a custom in China for centuries (although very much on the wane), especially in southern provinces, but the festival itself puts a sadistic spin on an already unregulated practice.
Dogs and cats alike are bludgeoned, burned, and boiled alive, have metal instruments inserted into their stomachs, and are disemboweled and dismembered. The animals are very much conscious throughout the process, from being bought or stolen and transported in cramped cages for miles on end, to being stored in factories or back rooms of restaurants and watching their companions die before their own ordeal begins. It is believed that their meat tastes better the more adrenaline-rich it is: effectively, the more pain, and thus fear, that is inflicted whilst the animal is alive, the tastier the meat at the end.
I oppose the event and wider practice on two grounds. Firstly, I am personally against eating any type of meat and fish. Secondly, and what is probably more relatable on a far wider scale, the level of sadism and torture is enough to make me feel ill. It is purely barbaric and nothing less, and to justify it under a cultural veil is utterly pathetic. Culture evolves, as China itself can testify, with the banning of foot binding as a practice. The majority of Chinese citizens oppose the event, and the eating of dog meat itself is said to be declining, so to suggest that this festival is part of Chinese tradition would be an insult. It is the result of a quest for money and an excuse for relatively freely permitted torture against helpless victims.
There are only two ways that the event will come to an end, and that is with a continuous and proactive mounting of pressure on Chinese officials to strictly prohibit it taking place, and to spread the word about rescue missions and if possible, fund their work. Signing petitions and spreading them to anyone and everyone ensures that both our own and the Chinese government will be unable to avoid the criticism and outrage being levelled against them for allowing the event to continue yearly. Missions into China, Vietnam and Cambodia, for example, by the likes of Marc Ching of the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, are not cheap ventures. Transporting both manpower and medical equipment, working one’s way into factories through back channels and under the cover of being businessmen interested in ‘buying meat’, is not only hugely costly and time-consuming, it is dangerous both physically and mentally. I feel that if someone is willing to risk their mental stability and even their lives for the same animal that I have such a passionate love for, the least I can do is support their campaigns in the best way that I can.
Change does not come easily, but in time it does come. Looking back through history, barbaric practices eventually fizzle under immense pressure, and it is time for history to repeat itself. It is so easy to pretend these atrocities do not exist, to exit out of a page containing violent images and flick onto Facebook to erase them from our minds. All the while, thousands of dogs and cats are going to die unimaginable, prolonged deaths whilst we continue about our lives. Ignorance is one of the most dangerous acts we can commit: it is in ignorance that the worst crimes of mankind can be permitted and continued.
I will not insert any graphic images here but I urge everyone who reads this to please, watch this video – it is mostly factual, and if you can not bring yourself to watch the violence, there are warnings and you can skip them. We have the power and voice to stand up for those that are less fortunate, be that oppressed minority groups or animals. I will add in below the petitions that need signing and sharing to mount pressure, and a link to donate to the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation: they are in the midst of raising the means to travel to China and gain access to the factories to buy the dogs before they die, and to lobby officials directly.
- Change.org petition
- Humane Society International petition
- Link to donate to the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation.
As Martin Luther King said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ I urge everyone reading this to take action in some form, however small or large it is, to bring the barbarism of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival to an end.