A coalition of animal rights activists from all over the world are calling on the Chinese government to stop the upcoming Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin.
More than 11 million people have signed the petition sent to the Chinese Embassy in London on Tuesday, the New York Times reported. The group’s representatives in China also sent the petition to the Yulin city government’s Beijing office on Friday.
The Humane Society International petition addresses Chinese President Xi Jinping and states that by stopping the event, “you will clearly show your leadership in protecting the well-being of both people and animals, and demonstrate that China’s global reputation as a progressive nation will not be besmirched by such activities.”
Humane Society International policy adviser Peter J. Li said that copies of the petition were also sent to be delivered by registered mail to government health and food safety regulators in China.
Since 2010, the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, commonly called the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, has been held annually during the summer solstice. Festival-goers consume an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 dogs in the span of 10 days at the festival. This year’s event is set to begin on June 21.
During the festival, dogs are paraded in cages and crates on their way to be skinned and then cooked for eating by local residents and festival attendees.
Yulin’s local officials have denied any government involvement in the controversial event and attribute its organizing to residents and local businesses. Festival organizers claim that the dogs are killed humanely and justify the practice as a means of expressing cultural heritage. They also argue that eating dog meat is similar to eating beef or pork.
International animal welfare advocates, however, disagree. Condemnation against the Yulin Dog Meat Festival has grown over the past years as images of dogs being killed in Yulin marketplaces have began circulating online.
Millions more are expected to join the movement’s call by June 21 and organizers are hoping this will help pressure the Chinese government to shut down the event.