The dog meat festival in Yulin, China, begins this Friday. However, dogs and cats, either stolen from their owners or plucked from the streets, are already being mercilessly bludgeoned to death or electrocuted before being cooked and served up as food in the city’s restaurants.
As we do each year, Humane Society International is working to bring global attention to this gruesome spectacle. This week, we released photos and videos of a filthy, backstreet dog slaughterhouse in Yulin, from which local activists rescued 62 terrified dogs.
The dogs were severely dehydrated and malnourished. Some showed signs of sickness and infection. This is typical for dogs trapped in the meat trade. The animals are crammed into wire cages and driven for hours or even days across the country, before they reach the slaughterhouse where they are beaten to death.
One of the Chinese activists, Wei, described the slaughterhouse as being “swelteringly hot.”
“The dogs were exhausted and panting, some pressing themselves tight against the wall in an effort not to be noticed. Others chased around our legs eager for attention,” he said, describing the scene.
The dogs were taken to a temporary boarding facility for immediate care, food and water, and since then, they’ve made the journey to safety with reputable Chinese shelters, one of which is our HSI-supported shelter in northern China. The dogs will receive all the veterinary care and support they need to recover. Once they have regained their health, they will be offered for adoption in China, and a few among them will find their way to the United States where they will also have a chance to find loving homes.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is not a traditional event by any means; it was invented as recently as 2010 by dog traders trying to boost flagging dog meat sales and attract tourists. Before the festival started, Yulin had no history of mass dog slaughter and consumption.
But more than profits and tourists, the dog meat festival has brought China censure and condemnation not just in the broader world but from many of its own citizens. Most Chinese themselves do not eat dog meat, nor see eating dogs as part of their tradition. As Wei said, “Please don’t waste your breath calling dog eating Chinese culture. It is not our culture to steal people’s pets. It is not our culture to eat dogs.”
As is always our aim when we capture and share such sad footage of this cruel trade, we are hoping that both the people of China, and companion animal lovers around the world, will help us urge authorities there to ban the dog and cat meat trade permanently.
HSI has been fighting the dog meat trade in China for more than a decade and Yulin has been a particular focus for us since 2010. By focusing media attention on the event, working with local activists to rescue dogs from slaughterhouses and stop trucks carrying dogs, and holding discussions with authorities, we have helped bring down the number of dogs killed from 15,000 dogs during the festival days to an estimated 3,000 dogs.
The position of authorities in Yulin has also changed, as they have realized the fierce domestic and international opposition to the event. Authorities have moved in recent years to tighten the net on the trade in the city despite fierce pushback from dog traders, making it harder for traders to truck in dogs/cats for the event, or even deterring their sale at the markets directly.
This year, eyewitnesses on the ground report, the dog meat market at Yulin is slow. The owner of the slaughterhouse where the dogs were rescued from said it would be difficult for dog trucks to ship dogs into the city over the next few days because of larger numbers of law enforcement personnel monitoring the dog meat markets. We see this as a very promising sign of the demise of the Yulin dog meat festival.
Our work to persuade the Chinese government to end this event, and to keep the world’s attention focused on it, will continue until the day it ends. But Yulin is not the only battle front: each year, an estimated 30 million dogs are killed across Asia for their meat, some 10 to 20 million in China alone. HSI’s campaign to end the dog meat trade continues year-round in countries including China, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia. A ban on the trade has already happened in Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore, and we will continue to push for an end to this cruelty throughout the region.