What is the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival?
Every summer, the Chinese city of Yulin hosts a barbarous celebration, and it's time the world put a stop to it By Chloe Bowen
Yulin, located in Guangxi southeast China, is notorious for its Lychee and Dog Meat Festival. The festival is held annually during the summer solstice in June, where thousands of dogs are killed for consumption, most of which are stolen from homes and the streets. Festival goers will celebrate for 10 days by consuming lychees with dog meat, sometimes even cat meat, starting from the 21st of June through to the 30th.
The event is barbaric in nature, ever since the first event in June 2009, and has since become a tradition during the hottest week of the year. Eating dog meat is often called a 'traditional' act in China where the belief that eating the meat will bring good luck and health. There have also been accusations that dog meat is consumed due to lack of food or money, but this is not the case. Despite many of the animals being stolen, the meat is still not cheap. In fact, the festival didn't begin due to traditional beliefs, but was invented by dog traders trying to boost their meat sales. Before the festival started in 2009, Yulin had no long history of mass dog slaughter and consumption.
Over 10,000 dogs are consumed during the 10-day-event each year with some even claiming to be stolen pets. Visitors have reported witnessing some of the dogs to be wearing collars. The rest are strays that have been taken off the streets.
Controversy, cruelty and health warnings
The event is controversial amongst many, including celebrities such as Joaquin Phoenix, Simon Cowell and Ricky Gervais who have publicly condemned the festival. It has drawn criticism over recent years, especially in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Concerns of animal cruelty, public health and dog theft have led others to campaign against the celebration.
The large international scale of negative coverage in the media is highlighting the sad realities that these innocent animals are experiencing. The animals are slaughtered inhumanely in front of the public and festival goers, in various barbaric ways. Activists report that this way of slaughter is becoming a risk to public health, particularly considering the pandemic.
The World Health Organisation has warned that dog trade will be a main cause of increased risk of cholera and spreading rabies. Hygiene practices at the festival fall below expectations with Chinese regulations every year due to the way these animals are horrifically transported and treated. From across China straight to Yulin dogs are taken in, poisoned or beaten and thrown into cages in cramped conditions, during this time they have no food or water. Shamefully, they suffer even further whilst witnessing other dogs being slaughtered before their own death.
Changing attitudes and rescues
In 2017, over 1,300 dogs were rescued by activists. After a tip off, a truck transporting the dogs was blocked. Police confirmed that the majority of the dogs were stolen and not allowed for consumption, allowing volunteers to rescue the dogs.
Up to 40 per cent of the dogs also carried infectious diseases. While in the UK, we see dogs as domesticated animals making them the perfect companion for any home, across China, eating dog meat is not illegal. But it looks like the work of activists is proving beneficial for change. Fortunately, attitudes towards the consumption of dog meat are changing amongst Chinese citizens, including the younger and middle-class generations. Although over 10 million are still killed for human consumption each year, there are now 62 million dogs registered as pets within China.
In May 2020, China's government recognised dogs as companions and omitted dogs from the long list of livestock animals allowed to be commercially bred, raised and traded. Already, cities leading the way in China are Shenzhen and Zhuhai, who have become the first to officially ban the consumption of cat and dog meat.
Campaigns, charities and supportive organisations
Campaigns and movements that work hard to bring an end to Yulin's dog market have since caught on globally by spreading awareness of the festival all around the world. Many activists and public figures have taken to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using hashtags such as #stopyulinforever and most recently #stopyulin2021. UK Charity NoToDogMeat started the #StopYulin Campaign which became global. In 2016 Humane Society International organised a petition opposing the dog eating festival which received 11 million signatures from people worldwide. With these pressures put on China, the number of dogs being slaughtered has decreased but the festival still remains an annual event despite this improvement.
There is no longer an 'official' event for Yulin festival, which may explain why the government hasn't put a stop to the cruelty that it brings to many animals. However, it is still a fact that eating dog meat continues all year-round and is simply heightened during the summer solstice.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which started in Wuhan at the back end of 2019, China permitted a temporary ban on wild animal trade and consumption to stop the spread. Yulin claimed they would make an effort to combat Coronavirus by banning the consumption of dog meat in February 2020. However, the festival went ahead that same year on 21st June.
How we can help at home
If eating dog meat was to be made illegal, this would put a stop to a large amount of crime and cruelty that occurs with the event. The end goal should be to stop dog meat altogether, which would finally end Yulin festival. The focus must be on the year-round trade and cruelty. To help, a good place to start would be to research, find groups which are working responsibly to stop the trade all year round, donate and fundraise for charities that raise awareness for the issue. Volunteer and join support groups if you have the time to and sign petitions if time is limited. Change is possible.
Words by Chloe Bowen, @chloesvmunch on IG