Chinese authorities and activists rescued 126 dogs from an illegal dog “slaughterhouse” some 1,000 miles away from where this year’s controversial Yulin Dog Meat Festival took place.
Animal activist groups Vshine, Baoji Small Animal Protection Association and local Xi’an activists teamed up with Chinese authorities and the mayor of Fufeng County to rescue the animals from the slaughterhouse in Shanxi Province, China, while the festival was ending on June 30.
Upon entering the slaughterhouse, activists and local authorities were greeted by a grisly scene of dead dogs, blood on the floor and machines used to butcher the animals, according to Humane Society International (HSI).
Activists believe some of the discovered dogs were once pets that were stolen from homes or farms, as evidenced by the collars they were wearing.
While watching a video that Vshine provided to HSI, rescuers saw small and large dogs of various breeds, including golden retrievers, German shepherds and huskies, crowded together in the dirty facility.
Despite their condition, however, several dogs were still “eager to receive reassurance and comfort,” the activists noted.
“This was an horrendous slaughterhouse and we are so grateful to the tip-off by the Xi’an activists so that we could rally together and get this place shut down before any more dogs suffered and died there,” Ziyang Huang from Vshine told HSI. “The dogs we found alive were whimpering and distressed but very happy to see us.”
Huang also noted that the rescued dogs were “standing in their own filth with blood and dog fur all around” and had probably watched other animals being slaughtered before their very eyes.
“The amount of pet collars we found was really shocking, and the gentle, friendly nature of these dogs tells us probably most of them were once part of a home and somehow ended up at that terrible place,” Huang added. “That’s just one of the reasons why we campaign to end this cruel dog meat trade.”
The remarkable rescue operation reportedly occurred during the end of this year’s controversial Yulin Dog Meat Festival. The 10-day “tradition” kicked off on June 21 and ended on June 30 despite cancellation attempts and rescue efforts.
Just days before the operation, police had intercepted a truck that contained nearly 400 dogs bound for slaughter, HSI shared on Twitter.
Although the annual event is commonly referred to as a “festival,” HSI’s China policy expert Peter Li explained that local dog meat traders created the festival around a decade ago to increase their dog meat sales.
“It has no cultural origins in Yulin, in fact before that date, dog meat consumption was never part of the local mainstream food culture and the ‘festival’ had never existed,” Li told Newsweek in June. “Even now, opinion polls show that most people living in Yulin don’t eat dog meat.”
While the city is infamous for its dog meat festival, Li said that dog meat trading is prevalent in other cities and towns in Guangxi, the region bordering Vietnam where Yulin is located.
“Although dog and cat meat-eating is not part of China’s culinary mainstream food culture, and most people in China don’t eat it, Guangxi is still something of a stronghold,” Li was quoted as saying. “And of course across the whole of China, the dog and cat meat trade happens all year round.”
HSI noted that around 10,000 dogs were slaughtered when the festival first started. Those numbers have reportedly dwindled through the years thanks to the efforts of activists and local authorities.
“We tend to say [the number of dogs killed is now in the] low thousands because that tends to be supported by what activists see on the ground at markets and slaughterhouses,” Wendy Higgins, a spokesperson for HSI, told Newsweek. “Numbers have been more depressed during COVID-19 times, as you might expect.”
On the recent rescues, Li praised animal advocates and law enforcement authorities determined to put an end to the illegal activity.
“This slaughterhouse rescue, and the truck interception before it, show the passion and determination of China’s animal advocates to end the brutal dog meat trade, and are great examples of how effective local police and law enforcement authorities can be when they crack down on this illegal activity,” Li said in HSI’s July 1 report. “The agencies in Shanxi are to be applauded for acting so quickly and decisively to close this slaughterhouse and save the lives of the dogs.”
“If all police across China followed their example, the dog thieves and traffickers would find it very hard to continue their illegal and dangerous activities,” he added. “China’s growing pet-loving population is increasingly calling for action, and this [proves] that once again beloved pet companions have fallen victim to the dog meat trade will surely renew calls for it to end.”
In a statement in 2020, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs declared that dogs are companion animals and not “livestock” for consumption. Later that year, the cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai officially prohibited the consumption of dog and cat meat.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Siem Reap Province in Cambodia, the Philippines and 17 cities and regencies in Indonesia also have laws that ban the consumption of dog and cat meat. Last year, former South Korean President Moon Jae-in publicly raised concerns over the practice of consuming dog meat.
Despite the efforts of some Asian countries, HSI noted that around 30 million dogs are still being slaughtered for their meat in other parts of Asia annually.
Featured image via Pexels (representational only)