Sunday October 20, 2019

THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING YULIN’S DOG-EATING FESTIVAL

June 24th, 2014

The annual Yulin dog-eating festival took place last Saturday, June 21st, and caused an uproar from animal activist groups and a rebuttal from the merchants butchering and selling dog meat.

While lychees and grain alcohol are also big attractions of the festival, dog meat is the main feature. According to a Washington Post article, activists say as many as 10,000 dogs are slaughtered for the festival each year. The Yulin dog-eating festival is used to celebrate the summer solstice and, while the festival only began in the 1990s, the tradition of eating dog dates back generations.

To some, eating dogs is part of a tradition that should be upheld. Others refute this idea and fight for the abolishment of the slaughter and consumption of dogs. While this is by no means a new disagreement, it remains a constant controversy battled in some parts of China.

Netizens and activist groups have petitioned and protested these festivals in the past with some success. This pressure has led to the cancellation of many dog-eating festivals in other parts of China.

In Hangzhou, the tradition of eating dog meat dates back 600 years. China’s state media, Xinhua, outlines the source of the tradition: “A folklore goes that dogs in Qianxi were secretly killed by the troops of Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), before they seized the town as the barks would expose their every attempt of maneuver. . .After the conquest, dog meat was served at the feast of victory celebration.” From then on, dog meat was seen as a delicacy. Dog vendors used to butcher dogs in public to show that the meat was fresh and uncontaminated. Tens of thousands condemned, protested, and petitioned against Hangzhou’s dog-eating carnival. In response to the public uproar, the carnival was cancelled by the government in September 2011, less than one month before the event was scheduled to begin that October.

Other supporters of the practice argue that eating dog meat “is popularly believed to strengthen the body, especially in summer” and that “dogs, like cows, were for working and eating, so for many Chinese, there is nothing wrong with eating dog, which was first recorded in the Spring and Autumn Period (around 722 to 481 BC).” Today, eating dog meat is still considered an acceptable and natural part of life in some provinces in China.

The international community as well as national and local animal activist groups have responded with condemnation to the act of killing and eating dogs. Activist Du Yufeng, whose 2011 protest put a stop to the dog meat festival in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, has been protesting the Yulin dog-eating festival for the past four years. She notes that the word “dog” on signs advertising dog meat has been painted over–an indication that the government does not condone the consumption of dog meat. Many ask why the consumption of dog meat is seen as inappropriate when the consumption of other meat is so widely accepted. Du responds, saying, “You cannot categorically say that all animals should either be eaten or not eaten. . . every animal has its own value and worth. For example, grass-eating animals are meant to be supplied to humans. But these companion animals, such as dogs and cats, they are meant to contribute to human production — such as drug-sniffing dogs or watch dogs. . .their value is not the same.”

Deng Yidan, from the Hong Kong-based animal rights group Animals Asia, outlines several reasons the festival must stop. They argue tradition is no excuse for inhumane practices. Animals Asia compares the tradition of the slaughter and consumption of dogs to the obsolete traditions of foot-binding and slavery, saying these practices “have been protested and outlawed by society. . . their elimination encourages a harmonious and healthy society, and a positive national image, without causing harm to our rich culture.”

Deng Yidan explains further that as there are few, if any, dog meat farms remaining in China, many of the dogs consumed have been stolen. This encourages criminal activity and many of the dogs butchered and consumed have been subject to disease and infection, presenting a danger to public health. Deng’s final reason for the festival’s abolishment comes from the desire to uphold a good image and reputation internationally. Neighboring Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the nearby Philippines have already outlawed the slaughter and consumption of dogs.

Not all parts of China eat dog meat or condone its consumption. As for the parts that do, the consumption of dog meat is so much a part of their tradition, daily life, and culture that many are unwilling to extricate it from their lives. In Yulin, eating dog is akin to an American eating beef; it is seen as a natural part of daily life and a habit that is hard to break for many. Despite public condemnation, the Yulin festival remains one of the largest dog-eating festivals in China.

For more information on the Yulin dog-eating festival and the controversy surrounding it, see the following news articles:

 

CNN– “Canine controversy: Chinese festival serves up dog meat”

Washington Post“Dog-eating festival in China hounded by activists”

Animals Asia“With Yulin, China dog eating festival on the horizon, Animals Asia addresses open letter to local government”

Xinhua” Dog-eating carnival banned after netizens say it was too ruff-ruff”

The Guardian“Chinese dog-eating festival backlash grows”

The Guardian” Chinese city dogged by criticism over dog-meat festival”

China.org.cn“China Voice: One man’s dog meat is another’s poison”

For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:

China.org.cn (中国网)- “中国的声音: 一个人的狗肉是另一种是毒药”

Xinhua ( 新华网)“狗吃嘉年华后网友说这也是禁止脖圈脖圈”

 

Compiled and Edited by Erin Monroe