I first learned about the Yulin festival many years ago, and I vowed to do everything I could to spread awareness on the topic.
What Is the Yulin Festival?
The Yulin Festival occurs every year in China, in a city called Yulin which is in the Guangxi province. The festival is held from June 21 through June 30.
During this festival, it has become a tradition for the Chinese to eat dog meat in hopes of bringing good luck to themselves and their families. There is also a long standing belief in China that eating dog meat will keep you healthy and help rid the body of diseases.
Thousands of dogs are killed in honor of this festival, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. It is estimated that between 10 and 20 million dogs are killed every single year for their meat, and that is just in China alone.
The festival started in 2009, and has been a source of controversy ever since. You see, the festival not only puts dogs on the dinner plate. It also promotes mass cruelty to thousands of dogs over the duration of the festival, and for many days leading up to it.
In spite of the many organizations and activists bringing global awareness to this troubling issue, it continues to march on. Eating dog meat is legal in almost all of China, with the exception of the city of Shenzhen, which placed a ban on consuming the meat of dogs and cats in 2020. Soon afterwards, the city of Zhuhai also followed suit with a ban of their own.
The festival is not the only time that dogs are killed for food. There are restaurants where you can order up a meal containing dog meat any time of the year, although the practice of eating dog meat is slowing down somewhat, as new generations are viewing dogs as pets instead of dinner.
During the festival, many of the dogs would be butchered out in the open for all to see. Because of public scrutiny, many of the vendors at the festival have now started to be more secretive as to where they butcher the dogs. Out of sight, but absolutely not out of mind for those who are still fighting for these voiceless creatures. Some vendors don't care and still slaughter them in plain sight of any festival goers.
The History Of Eating Dog Meat In China
Using dogs as food is a Chinese tradition that likely goes back before history was even being recorded. In China dogs were viewed as being no different than a pig, or a cow. The practice of eating dogs has died off very much in recent history, but with at least 10 million dogs being killed annually in China, it is still far too many for animals lovers across the world to be able to stomach.
There is a Chinese belief that dogs who are treated a certain way before or during death causes the meat to have a better taste. One belief is that if a dog is beaten or clubbed to death, the meat will be more tender, or that the endorphins released during their abusive deaths will provide a tastier morsel for their dinner plate.
You would be surprised to learn that many of the people living in China have expressed their desire to end the festival and to stop the eating of dog meat entirely. It has mostly fallen on deaf ears. Making changes to the dog meat trade is just not of much importance to those in power.
Activists are now trying to appeal to the younger generation and teach them that dogs are our friends, and not to be looked at as a food source. Pet ownership has been gaining popularity in China, but citizens are limited to how many dogs they may keep. They are allowed only one dog per family, and a large handful of breeds are banned completely. With the continued work of animal rights advocates, we can only hope the Yulin festival will soon be a thing of the past.
A Nightmare Where the Only Escape is Death
The butchers will try to tell outsiders that all of their dogs come from meat farms. Yes, dog meat farms do exist in China. But the truth is, there are not nearly enough dog meat farms in existence to account for the amount of dogs that end up on the chopping block.
A huge percentage of dogs are stolen from their families, and the proof is in the lack of paperwork that would accompany a meat farm dog. Many of the live dogs seen at the Yulin festival still have collars on. A sign that they once had a life filled with plenty of love and affection.
Additionally, there is a very high percentage of purebred dogs being held at the festival, and at other meat markets year round. The reason for this is that breeders will take them to the market to make a few bucks off of them once they are too sickly or too old to breed any longer. They can't make money off of selling their puppies anymore, so they will make money off of their death instead.
Dogs that are being sold to the meat market are loaded onto huge trucks with sometimes hundreds of cages. They travel over long distances crammed into tiny metal cages where they can barely move. The cages are stacked one on top of the other, with nothing between them to catch urine and feces. But most of them haven't had anything to eat or drink in quite some time and are severely dehydrated and emaciated.
When they are being loaded for transport, they are thrown forcibly into the cage and some dogs end up with lacerations and broken bones. These people don't look at dogs as intelligent beings that feel pain and emotions. To them they are not worthy of the extra time it would take to load them carefully into the cages. And it saves them money to cram as many dogs together as possible.
Once they reach the meat market, many of the dogs are already sick with parvo, distemper, and other diseases. They have traveled a long way, usually in stifling heat. Infections and broken bones are common, and they are left to suffer until it's their turn to die. Sometimes they will tie their feet together and put them in a sack as they wait. Others will continue to sit in cages, or in large groups inside of filthy concrete "waiting rooms" with blood and filth.
They can hear the screams of their friends being killed. Often times they actually witness it, and surely know what fait awaits them. Dogs have been bludgeoned to death, had their throats cut. They have been electrocuted, skinned, even boiled and blow torched....all while still alive and conscious. After the skin and fur is removed and their blood is drained, they are hung up so that patrons can pick which one they want to purchase. Sometimes they can pick one while it's still alive and have it freshly killed.
All of this is done in filth. Sanitation is not a thing at these markets. There are no regulations that they are forced to follow, and they only care about maximizing profits.
Why It Needs To Stop
Animal abuse should not be tolerated in modern times in any country. It isn't so much the fact that they are eating dogs, as much as it is the way they are being killed. I don't agree with eating companion animals, but since it is part of their culture I can try to understand the practice. But there is never a good argument for animal abuse. And these dogs suffer significantly before meeting their ultimate fate.
Wet markets such as these are also extremely unsanitary and can pose a serious threat to public health for the entire world, because of the passing of new viruses from animals to humans.
Dogs are not the only animals treated inhumanely at these markets. There are dozens of different kinds of wild animals that are killed on site and sold as food. After the 2003 SARS outbreak, there have been some restrictions on birds and chickens, but for the most part it's similar to a free for all.
These markets have been linked directly to many different pandemic diseases over the years, including the Coronavirus outbreak. That outbreak led to dogs in China being reclassified as companion animals instead of livestock. That sounds like a step in the right direction, but in reality, this reclassification didn't accomplish much besides getting peoples hopes up.
The time for change is now, whether you are an animal lover or not. The health of everyone on this planet really depends on it.
Light in the Darkest of Places
Fortunately, there are groups that travel to China, and even living within China, who are doing everything they can to help rescue meat market dogs. They operate mostly on monetary donations. The expense of feeding, housing, and vet care for these dogs is enormous. Especially since the dogs are abused and sickly.
It is also expensive for them to be able to free the dogs in the first place. Usually they have to buy the dogs and are charged by the pound from the butchers in order for them to agree to spare their life.
Many of them will have a long fight ahead of them even after being rescued. Not all of them survive their injuries and illnesses. Many are too far gone, but will at least die having food, water, and someone who cares by their side. Pneumonia, parvovirus, distemper, and skin disease are all very common.
If they survive treatment, the dogs will then usually go through socialization and training. Most of the time they are later flown to homes in other countries, where they will never end up as someone's dinner. A new "leash" on life, so to speak.
It's also very important to spread the word about what happens to these beautiful creatures. Everybody can do their part, even if it's just to spread awareness, or by donating. As awful as the stories are to hear, this is the only way that change will happen. And change HAS been happening. Not over night of course, but over time eating dog meat is becoming less and less popular amongst most older residents of China, and the younger ones have little interest in it.
But shutting down the Yulin festival will always be the ultimate goal, and hopefully one day soon that will become reality.
How You Can Help
If you'd like to help by donating, No Dogs Left Behind and Plush Bears Shelter both have done so much to help save these dogs. You can follow their success stories and the great work that they do by looking them up on Faceboook!
- Disabled Canine Rescued From Dog Meat Trade Becomes Therapy Dog
Ichabod the Malamute dog became a certified therapy dog with his owner Gayle Ellias after getting rescued from the dog meat slaughter trade
- Home | Plush Bear's Shelter
- Asia Dog Meat Trade Rescue | Dog Trafficking | East Asia Dog Adoption - No Dogs Left Behind
No Dogs Left Behind is one of the best communities of dedicated animal rights activists that rescues and saves dogs in East Asia. Our team helps to stop Asia Dog Meat Trade and Dog Trafficking. Adopt a German Shepherd, Labrador, Husky, Malamute, Pood
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.