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Back in April, I attended a small animal rights conference at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Organized by activist Andrea Gung, the Conference on Animal Welfare in Mainland China and Taiwan featured topics ranging from the farming of bears for bile to China’s ever-growing fur industry. But what I was most eager to learn about were new efforts to halt the annual dog meat festival in YuLin, Guang Xi, a city in southern China. Andrea, a vegan and founder of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, addressed this issue, as her group began campaigning to end the festival last October.
It’s a mischaracterization to say everyone in China eats dogs, but there’s no denying the popularity of the YuLin Dog Meat Festival, where tens of thousands of canines arrive on filthy, overcrowded trucks, significantly increasing the risk that they carry rabies and other contagious diseases. YuLin officials maintain that the dogs are raised by local farmers, which is a ridiculous claim: many of these dogs are still wearing collars as they are removed from the tiny cages, and others are clothed in the outfits their guardians dressed them in the day they were stolen. Every dog is then slaughtered for human consumption, often right on the street in front of children. This year’s festival is slated for June 21.
I asked Andrea to explain a bit about the festival and her group’s efforts to shut it down.
When and why did the festival start?
In YuLin, local people have had this tradition for years, but it was a very small scale. Since 2009, some local merchants decided to make it a bigger event to attract out-of-town tourists to make more money.
Where do the dogs used for the festival come from?
They are from all over China, but most of the dogs are from adjacent provinces (less transportation cost). About 10,000 to 50,000 dogs are killed during the festival. There are no official records to verify how many are killed.
Are you seeing an increase in animal activism in China?
Yes, especially in the last 5 or 6 years. Here are two of the reasons:
1) Social networking. Because of the spread of social networking and video/photo sharing among young people, awareness of animal cruelty issues has increased dramatically, and the animal rights movement is growing. Photos from past festivals have sparked outrage in mainland China.
2) Many young adults who grew up in China under the one-child policy had pets as their companions, and today they feel more compassion toward animals and have less toleration for animal cruelty than the previous generations.
Besides the festival, what does your work for animals include?
At this time, all our work and resources are for stopping this festival. After the festival, we are going to work on the dog and cat meat trade in GuzngZhou, which has more dog meat consumption. It’s just more spread out and has gone underground, not like YuLin, where it’s out in the public and open. We are also going to start our neutering and micro-chip campaigns. We believe we have to start from the top to stop the dog-stealing business. We will also help the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan — one of the guest speakers at the conference — to reach out to Taiwanese-American communities about the animal welfare for the farm animals and lab animals issues in Taiwan.
What can compassionate people do to help end the festival?
Spread the word and tell people about this cruel festival. Share our campaign on Facebook and tweet about it.
Use any connections in China or the U.S. that can help with our campaign, such as the FDA, which can put pressure on the FDA in China to stop this festival on the grounds of health concerns. Dogs are killed in a filthy back alley, and the meat is not inspected; some of the dogs are poisoned. Write to or call the U.S. ambassador and diplomatic offices in China. Call Chinese embassies in the U.S. Donate to our campaign so we can hire more local people to do the ground work, which includes calling the YuLin local officers daily to ask for the inspection records of the meat, to make sure the restaurants have the legal license to sell dog meat, to show proof of the legal ownership of the dogs in the cages. Also, to fund more ads — billboards or radio — to educate local YuLin people that the dogs they eat are stolen and poisoned.
Oh, and, no, I don’t believe dogs are more deserving of our protection than other animals killed for food. I just wanted to highlight Andrea’s hard work.