As the Yulin Dog Meat Festival approaches, there has been an influx of really terrible news highlighting the brutality of the festival. It’s easy to feel completely defeated as if there is nothing that can be done to alleviate the suffering of the hundreds of animals who will be tortured and killed in the festival’s name. But we do have a shining spot of good news to share with you. An online platform launched by Animals Asia that encourages citizens to report the illegal trade of dog and cat meat has worked to save potentially hundreds of lives.
Every year, around 10,000 dogs are killed for meat during the 10-day festival in Yulin that coincides with the summer solstice on June 21st. The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dogs killed for their meat, accounting for about one percent of the dogs slaughtered in China annually for meat. Yulin gets the attention because of the imagery it gives us; terrified dogs cramped in too-small cages before they endure barbaric deaths, and in some cases, are cooked alive.
Animals Asia, an organization promoting compassion and respect for all animals and working to bring about long-term change since 1998, is focusing its efforts on combatting the year-round dog meat industry rather than this sole annual event. Around 10 million dogs are thought to be slaughtered yearly for human consumption in China alone, both bred for meat and snatched from the streets; street dogs and family pets alike have been found in the cages in some dog meat markets.
A report in 2015 compiled by Animals Asia showed illegalities at every stage of the dog meat chain, and tides are very definitely turning against the dog meat trade. Animals Asia launched an online platform to empower Chinese citizens to report suspected illegal activities by restaurants serving dogs and cats as part of their dishes. In the first 10 days of the platform’s launch, more than 250 reports were received. Some of the highlights of the platform so far include: 200 dog meat restaurants in 101 cities reported to the local government, 19 restaurants forced to close, and 16 given official warnings from the government, resulting in thousands of dogs estimated to have been saved.
Animals Asia’s Cat and Dog Welfare Director, Irene Feng, said, “not only has the public been given a tool with which to defend their communities from the cruelty, theft and health risks associated with dog meat, the government has been given a helping hand in identifying the criminals, too. Whole communities have been empowered and animal lives have been saved. Now we want this to be a model for how the authorities in Yulin can deal with illegality during the summer solstice period of increased dog meat consumption. While the authorities have no power to stop the public from eating dog meat, they have a duty to apprehend those bringing illegally sourced dogs into the city without the required paperwork and health certificates, and they must also ensure all slaughter is carried out according to Chinese laws.”
Despite the public image of China not being animal-friendly, initiatives such as these by Animals Asia are proving that to not be the case at all. Last year, animal lovers from across China staged a highway rescue of 260 caged dogs destined for dog meat markets. Students in universities took part in a poster campaign to fight the dog meat trade, and hundreds of activists across the country have joined in protests against the trade. 62 million dogs are registered as family pets throughout China, with just 20 percent of people admitting to having eaten dog within the last two years. And a poll by China National Radio found that 69 percent of the public think the dog meat industry should be banned.
Thankfully, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and others of its kind are seeing a vast reduction in numbers of dogs being killed, with recent years’ numbers dropping to around 1,000 annually. It is still too many, and there is still much work to do, but the tide is very definitely turning.
If you value the work that Animals Asia does or want to show your support for fighting the dog meat trade, please consider making a donation.
Image source: Fred Ohlander/Unsplash