Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., introduced a congressional resolution today condemning China’s dog meat trade and the festival in Yulin, China, where thousands of dogs and cats are slaughtered each year. The resolution, which has 27 original cosponsors, doesn’t have the force of law, but it’s an opportunity for the United States to urge the government of China and Yulin authorities to protect against pet dogs being stolen and sold into the meat trade. It calls for a ban on the killing and eating of dogs and urges China to enact an anti-animal cruelty law banning the dog meat trade. It also calls for tougher enforcement of a 2011 agriculture ministry resolution that requires “one certificate for one dog” on board trucks transporting dogs that cross provincial boundaries, and of China’s food safety laws that would preclude this trade if properly enforced.
Humane Society International has documented the abuses of dogs at Yulin for the past several years, drawing global attention to this inferno for animals. Today, a dog HSI rescued from Yulin, Little Ricky, paid Congressman Hastings a visit during the release of the resolution. Little Ricky was named in honor of actor and comedian Ricky Gervais for his support of HSI’s #EndYulin campaign, and this canine ambassador now lives with his adoptive forever family in the Washington, D.C. region.
As many as 10,000 dogs could be captured, slaughtered, and eaten during the Yulin dog meat festival, which is scheduled to take place on June 21st this year. In recent years, as international pressure on China to end the festival has intensified and images of the festival’s brutality have made their way around the world, Yulin authorities have withdrawn their official support for it. Despite this, the festival continues and dog meat traders continue to slaughter dogs, usually right in front of other dogs who watch in horror as they wait for doom to visit them next.
Yulin is a terrifying and intense reminder of the horrors of the Chinese dog meat trade. We estimate that people kill more than 10 million dogs in China each year for human consumption. Besides the cruelty to the animals, the trade poses human health risks, with the World Health Organization linking the dog meat trade to cholera and rabies. As the resolution states, the dog slaughter in Yulin also “happens in residential areas and public marketplaces, imposing scenes of extreme animal cruelty on local residents, including young children who may, as a result, suffer psychological trauma and desensitization.”
Following last year’s Yulin dog meat festival, HSI helped set up China Animal Protection Power (CAPP), a task force of volunteers with local groups VShine, EShine, and Xi’an Small Animal Protection Association. These volunteers have intercepted trucks carrying dogs under extremely harsh conditions and with no access to food, water, or veterinary care. We have helped in the rescue of hundreds of dogs over the years, many still with collars on them. Just last week, with the assistance of law enforcement, activists with CAPP stopped a truck carrying 200 dogs on the Tianjin Highway outside Beijing. The dogs were liberated after three days of negotiations, during which activists with CAPP reported the truck to police, while activists in Beijing lobbied the agriculture ministry and other officials to intervene. All the while activists on the ground provided food and water to the dogs. One of the dogs had a microchip and we hope to engineer a reunion with the family.
The vast majority of people in China don’t eat dogs, and Chinese opposition to the dog meat trade is mounting. The Yulin dog meat festival is not about culture or tradition — it was launched in 2010 by dog meat traders hoping to boost flagging interest in the product, and was endorsed by local authorities who hoped to stir tourism. But as China has found out since the launch of the festival, it has earned the nation nothing but global censure. For people around the world – and for many dog-loving Chinese – an end to this festival of horrors could not come soon enough.