Chinese activists fight to shut down dog meat festivals

Every summer, a “dog meat” festival is held in Yulin, in the province of Guangxi in southern China. Thousands of dogs are eaten on this occasion. Many people have denounced this as inhumane – and not just abroad, but in China, too.


Dogs sold for meat. Photo courtesy of the Guangyuan Centre for the Protection of Animals.

Every summer, a dog meat festival is held in Yulin, in the province of Guangxi in southern China. Thousands of dogs are eaten on this occasion. Many people have denounced this as inhumane – not just abroad, but in China, too.

With two weeks to go before the festival is due to begin, tens of thousands of tweets have already been posted with the hashtag #StopYulin2015, many of them coming from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. A petition addressed to China’s President Xi Jinping has also been signed by more than 98,000 people.

Chinese Internet users are also calling to spare the dogs from this “barbaric” festival via the Chinese social network Weibo. Meanwhile, local animal rights activists have made it their mission to get the festival cancelled.

According to the website of the Organisation for Animal Protection in China,  tens of thousands of protesters marched against the festival last month in a dozen cities throughout China. In Dalian, in northeast China, volunteers from a local organisation called Vshine distributed pamphlets calling to “put a stop to selling dog meat”. They brandished a huge sign that read “Punish those who steal pet dogs” (see photo below).

The Vshine organisation and the city of Dalian organised a protest on May 17, to which more than 1,000 people showed up. Photo courtesy of Vshine.

Activists estimate that about 10,000 dogs are slaughtered each year at the festival. A recent study by the Animals Asia Foundation found that there are no large-scale dog-breeding operations in China; the dogs killed for meat have generally been abandoned or stolen from their owners. They are given anaesthesia or poisoned with cyanide, then sold on the black market. These methods cause serious public health concerns.

Captured dogs in Yulin. Photo published on Weibo.

“There are no laws that protect animals’ rights in China”

Du Yufeng is the founder of the Guangyuan Centre for the Protection of Animals, in Sichuan province.

I love dogs. When my mother died, and I moved out of our family’s house, my dad’s only companion was our dog. And in 2008, my city, Guangyuan, was hit by a devastating earthquake. I saved 70 dogs I found roaming the streets and fed them. Ever since, I’ve been working to help protect the rights of animals, notably abandoned dogs.

I founded the organisation without any financial help from the government. We organised conferences on vegetarianism, we exposed illegal dog vendors, and we even managed to stop a dog-eating festival in Zhejiang province. There are no laws that protect animals’ rights in China so I studied the laws on food safety to be able to denounce vendors that don’t vaccinate their dogs and don’t have certificates to show where they come from. They never do vaccinations, since it wouldn’t be cost-effective: they sell the animals for only three or four euros each.

In Guangxi province, things are even more complicated. The region is mainly populated by people belonging to the Zhuang ethnic minority. For them, eating dogs is traditional. It’s also a poor region, and dog meat is cheap compared to pork or beef. The central government would like to ban the festival, but it’s too complicated, since this is an autonomous region and they don’t want to stir up any trouble.

Today, our centre houses 600 dogs, and this costs me thousands of euros per year. I don’t get very many donations and I have no financing from the state, so I had to sell my house in order to be able to keep the centre open. It’s getting harder and harder. But I won’t stop until China adopts animal rights laws.

“The reactions are sometimes extreme”

Pian Shankong is an artist. He educates people about dog meat trafficking through his artwork. He also writes a blog.

The artist Pian Shankong locked himself in a cage, and had other activists transport him to a restaurant that sells dog meat. Photo published on Youku.

I myself have been hurt by dog trafficking. My dog was poisoned and kidnapped in the street a few years ago. Ever since, I have been calling for laws to protect animals’ rights. Once, I sat on my knees, in a prayer position, in front of a dog in the street. I want to make the public question this practice. The reactions to my art are sometimes extreme – young people tend to understand the problem, but a lot of others accuse us activists of disrespecting their cultural traditions. But that’s not it at all… The problem is that the dogs are treated cruelly.”

Post written by FRANCE 24 journalist Weiyu Tsien (@WeiyuQ).