This Sunday, thousands of dogs will be slaughtered and eaten at the Yulin Dog Festival in China.
Some Chinese look forward to summer solstice because of the Yulin Dog Festival, a yearly tradition in Yulin, one of the 14 cities of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China, where about 10,000 dogs as well an undocumented number of cats will be slaughtered and then cooked and eaten.
While some argue that the event is a ritual deeply rooted in ancient Chinese culture, the Humane Society International says the festival was started in 2010 as a way for dog meat cultivators to boost their sales.
Despite worldwide outcry and animal activists’ efforts to put an end to the practice, this year’s event will go on as planned, starting this Sunday, June 21.
One way dogs are slaughtered is by knife or by electrocution, after which many are burned and skinned alive, hung from meat hooks or bunched up in piles on the side of the road.
In defense, Yulin officials claim that dogs are raised humanely by farmers before being consumed. But that’s up for debate, as Hong Kong-based NGO Animals Asia claims the dogs being eaten are strays or, worse, abducted from families. Humane Society International says “many of the stolen pets [are] still wearing their collars.”
Critics contend that eating dogs also isn’t a good idea because many might harbor rabies or other contagious diseases since there are no safety protocols in place to survey their health.
Yet the festival continues, with some animals even sold to restaurants throughout the year. Master Huici, assistant director of the Hebei Buddhism Charity Foundation, said:
“Stolen dogs without quarantine certificates are cruelly slaughtered and sold to restaurants at very low prices.”
As a result, activists are doing their best to stop the practice, although most of their efforts have been largely unsuccessful given that the festival will not be cancelled. Animal activists have even reached out to the U.S, government for help, but a petition for the White House to get involved failed to make an impression since it lacked the necessary 100,000 signatures.
Other petitions include Animal Asia’s online open letter urging residents all over the world to help end the festival, which it says “has seen the theft and slaughter of an estimated 50,000 dogs since it was started.” The rise of #ItsNoFestival, which began trending two weeks ago, already has 70,000 signatures against the festival, but it still won’t be enough, especially given that municipal authorities have reacted to the heavy protests by distancing themselves from the event entirely.
Animal Asia has sent four reports to Chinese authorities, including one about where the animals come from and another about the black market for them, but so far have not received a response.
Animal Asia’s reports are the first official documentation of the horrendous practice, a four-year study based on thorough research and investigation into the dog- and cat-eating epidemic that seems to have had no priority with government officials in China.
Still, Chinese citizens have taken note, as the reports have been shared and read by over 13 million people on Weibo, a Chinese social media site that draws comparison to Twitter, and have been covered by over 50 Chinese media outlets, particularly because Animal Asia’s figures are startling — the organization claims that more than 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are eaten each year all over China, and not just during the festival.
Vocal celebrity advocates include comedian Ricky Gervais and singer Leona Lewis. Gervais has spearheaded a #StopYulin2015 social media campaign with HSI to end the dog and cat meat trade, asking his 8.6 million Twitter followers to help stop the trend.
Gervais, 53, posted several tweets calling the organizers “disgusting” and “sub human”. In one tweet, he said:
“They [the Yulin residents] believe torturing the dog makes the meat tastier. They beat them, burn them, skin & boil them alive! Disgusting sub human c**ts. #Yulin“
“They steal people’s pets to torture & eat. What would you do to someone who you caught torturing your dog? I hope you’d stop them somehow,
Gervais also pointed his followers to HSI footage of animals at the Yulin festival, seen below. (Warning: The following video contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.)
While the festival will go on, activists argue that action still needs to happen all year long since the local government seems poised to continue to do nothing about the practice. Activists have gone as far as buying doomed dogs to save them from being slaughtered.
They also point to how a massive online petition and public denigration of the practice helped cancel a similar festival in the Zhejiang province of China in 2011.
Those who want to sign HSI’s petition against the Yulin Dog Meat Festival can do so here.