As Yulin dog meat festival starts, poll shows overwhelming Chinese opposition to dog-meat-eating spectacle
With a gruesome dog-killing spectacle about to play out in Yulin, China, in just hours, a new poll of Chinese citizens shows no appetite for the spectacle or the idea of dog eating at all. That poll, commissioned by Humane Society International and the group Avaaz, found that as many as 64 percent of people in the world’s biggest nation agree that the Yulin festival, designed as a blend of commerce and celebration, should end, and 62 percent think it damages China’s reputation. Nearly 52 percent want a complete ban to the dog meat trade, and nearly 70 percent have never eaten dog meat.
If they could see the festival up close, those numbers would swell, I’m sure. Thousands of dogs and cats will meet a terrifying end, by being bludgeoned and beaten to death, then skinned, all in front of other dogs and cats huddled together in cages, witnesses to the existential violence that awaits them, too.
The scene in Yulin today is heartbreaking, according to HSI team members on the ground in China, who are working round the clock to ensure that as many animals are saved as possible, even as they pressure authorities to shut down the festival. In the early hours of this morning, they helped rescue 20 more sick and injured dogs from a slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Yulin. The dogs were crammed into tiny cages and panting in the heat.
“One lone, mangy dog sat in a cage by himself, destined to be sold for a few dollars and then killed,’ said Adam Parascandola, director of animal protection and crisis response for HSI. “He gave a small tail wag when I spoke to him.”
Mercifully, our team and Chinese advocates rescued this dog and the others in that slaughterhouse.
The Yulin dog meat festival began only in 2010, and it’s not a traditional activity in this community. We have been engaging Chinese officials in discussions, rescuing dogs and cats from the live animal markets and from trucks headed to Yulin slaughterhouses, and we have focused the world’s attention on this cruel festival.
Amidst all of the despair and killing, there is reason for hope. Peter Li, HSI’s China specialist who has been to Yulin three times this year alone, says that the festival this year is more muted than it has been in previous years.
The atmosphere is tense, he said. The word “dog” has been painted out or covered with tape on several restaurants and slaughterhouses. Business at a popular animal market is slow. And although mopeds and market stalls piled high with brown, blowtorched bodies of dogs are still very much around, the scale of the festival, Peter reports, appears much smaller than it has in previous years.
A slaughterhouse that HSI exposed during an investigation a couple of months ago has closed its doors. “A Yulin official told us that, contrary to what has been reported in some media, dog meat sales have in fact been declining continuously,” Peter said.
Yulin authorities have set up road checkpoints to stop incoming dog and cat trucks, one of the key proposals for progress that HSI has lobbied for. Each dog and cat is required to have an individual health certificate under law, but most dogs and cats on the trucks are strays and pets with no such papers. However, many animals have already been brought into Yulin, and we are asking Yulin authorities to shut down the dog and cat slaughterhouses so this festival comes to a full stop.
Meanwhile, the 20 rescued dogs have been transported to a shelter for veterinary treatment for eye infections, skin diseases, and lacerations. In time, they – like the 29 dogs and five cats HSI rescued last week – will be placed for adoption through local shelters and rescues we work with in China, and some may even be placed with emergency placement partners of HSI and The HSUS in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. All will go on to live long, happy lives in loving homes, far from the horrors of a slaughterhouse and the dog meat festival.
I’ll keep you updated as this drama plays out, and we’ll be sure to stay the course, no matter what happens to dogs today.