It has become a tradition—not an ancient tradition, but an economic boost of sorts—for locals in southwest China’s Yulin to celebrate the summer solstice by tasting sweet lychees, downing strong liquor, and feasting on dog meat.
It is estimated that over 10,000 dogs could lose their lives to this event.
Animal lovers from China and beyond have protested the cruel practice of slaughtering dogs for consumption for years, while organizers and supporters have stood fast.
Recently, however, those who condemn it for animal welfare reasons have new allies in the fight: health authorities and legal experts are now warning that consumption of dog meat poses both health and legal risks.
A big proportion of the dogs consumed during this festival are in fact stolen and transported long distances to be slaughtered.
In the past, Chinese animal lovers have intercepted truckloads of dogs being transported across the country to supply dog meat restaurants.
Hundreds and often thousands of dogs are crammed tightly into battery cages for days, having no space to move. They were forced into contorted positions, standing on top of each other with no access to food, water, or even air to breathe on the journey that spans thousands of miles. Dogs in these conditions can die from suffocation, dehydration, heat stroke, or injuries, let alone a whole host of diseases.
Read about IFAW’s and the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA)’s program to reduce dog meat consumption in Bali.
Although China has no law prohibiting the consumption of dogs or protecting the welfare of companion animals, Ministry of Agriculture issued quarantine regulations for dogs and cats, requiring each animal to have individual health certificates for transport.
Yet, dog thieves or dealers couldn’t possibly have a valid health certificate for each of the stolen dog. They often forge counterfeit versions of certificates to evade health inspection.
Mass transport of un-quarantined dogs in unhealthy conditions over long distances, often between provinces, increases the risk of outbreaks of rabies and other communicable diseases, threatening the health and safety of people.
Guangxi Province already has the highest number of rabies deaths in China. In Yulin, 338 people died of rabies between 2002 and 2006 alone.
Liu Lang, director of the Beijing Small Animal Veterinary Association said in addition to the risk of people catching rabies, the dogs are not considered a farmed-for-meat animals, thus, dog meat is not properly quarantined and inspected, which creates safety risks in the processing and eating of dog meat.
In fact, some of the dogs are actually killed with poison and the risk of consuming meat laden with that poison exists.
In May, eleven people in central China’s Hunan province were sentenced to prison for allegedly killing over 1000 dogs with poison and selling the poisonous meat to restaurants.
In May, a letter from overseas Chinese was written to government agencies at various levels in China appealing for officials to halt the killings. Asia for Animals Coalition, a group of international animal welfare organizations sent an appeal to the governor of Yulin and urged animal lovers worldwide to take action.
From within China, an enlightened public from pop stars to ordinary citizens took to Weibo, a popular social media site to voice their opposition to the dog meat festival.
Different from previous protests when the objection was more often based on the emotional attachment people feel for dogs, this time around, many voices came from people who don’t own dogs.
One comment on Weibo said, “You don’t have to love them, but please don’t harm them.”
The condemnations from around the world and particularly increasing opposition from within the country have evoked reactions from Yulin.
It has become such a concern that staff from three local hospitals in Yulin confirmed to the Southern Metropolis Daily that meetings had been held to ban employees from eating dog meat in public. A notice of the ban had first been posted on Weibo in May.
The festival has minimized its profile in recent years due to the protests. Local restaurants serving dog meat have been ordered to cover the word “dog” on their signs, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.
As June 21st draws near, the debate rages on.
I hope that under the watchful eyes of the world, fewer dogs will suffer the cruel fate in Yulin this year.
More importantly, I hope that the increasing public condemnation will enlighten government officials of the need to wipe out this vile trade, once and for all.
For more information about IFAW’s dogs and cats programs, visit our web page.
Article source: IFAW