Will this be the last year of the Yulin Dog Meat ‘Festival’ in China? (interview)

Rescued puppies in carrier crates at a dog meat market in Yulin, June 2020, China, photo: Reuters/ Humane Society International
Rescued puppies in carrier crates at a dog meat market in Yulin, June 2020, China, photo: Reuters/ Humane Society International

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is not a festival and not even an organized event, Peter Li, China specialist for the animal welfare organization Humane Society International, explains. It’s a market where people sell stray and stolen dogs.

In 2009, local dog meat traders joined hands to form an association and began the Yulin Dog Meat Festival for monetary benefits, Li says. Chinese authorities first backed the idea but soon realized it was a bad idea and it was going to affect China’s reputation. In 2014, after international opposition and condemnation, authorities in China disassociated themselves from the event.

The sad part is that the slaughtering continued. Li: “Slaughter of dogs and consumption of dogs has continued since 2014. It is still called a festival because it has become something notorious for people/tourists to remember.”

Dogs are stolen from their owners
When questioned about the source of dogs in slaughterhouses, Peter says that most of these dogs are stolen from households in China. Dog meat traders move to rural areas and take pet dogs who are allowed to roam free in the neighborhood. It is illegal to steal a dog, but it doesn’t stop traders from doing it anyway. Another significant portion is stray dogs and a few come from breeders who have no use for their dogs.

Li calls his visit to a dog slaughterhouse traumatic. Dogs are hit with a stick or rod on their head. Their throats are slit open and then they’re put in a hair-removal machine.

The Chinese dog meat industry is similar to that of Vietnam and Indonesia and is sustained by a host of illegal activities, Li says. Stealing dogs is a violation of China’s Criminal Code and transporting dogs in trucks is also a violation of law as each dog needs to carry a health certificate, which is forged most of the time.

He adds that dogs are slaughtered in public places, sometimes near schools, which exposes miners to cruelty against animals.

Why can’t the Chinese government stop it?
Li explains that dog meat traders are mostly uneducated people from rural areas who consider this just another opportunity to earn their livelihood. To impose a ban on this trade, the Chinese government will have to undertake the responsibility of rehabilitating these people to different businesses by educating them and providing monetary aids. That is something that the China government doesn’t want to do at the moment.

And arresting these traders will only create a vacuum that will be filled by other people sooner or later. 

Li finishes with high hopes of seeing the dog meat business end soon. The cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai became the first cities to ban the consumption of dog and cat meat. The Chinese government also categorized cats and dogs as companion animals and not livestock, which is a huge signal of China’s intentions for the near future. 

Watch the full interview with Peter Li, the China specialist for Humane Society International, here:

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