It's no festival
By BEL JACOBS
On June 21st, the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, commonly referred to as the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, will kick off in the southern province of Yulin, Guangxi, Chin.a Rarely has a ‘celebration’ associated with the summer solstice been such a miserable event.
Every year, around 30 million dogs are horrifically killed and eaten in parts of Asia. While only a fraction of that number is consumed during its ten day duration, Yulin has become totemic in the annals of this trade.
Dogs are killed and eaten in the Far East for entirely mythic reasons of health and wellbeing. Further to the myth is the belief that the animals must die in fear in order for their meat to taste better. This leads to acts of unimaginable brutality, particularly in Yulin, with reports - and video footage - of dogs being beaten to death with metal bars, dismembered, skinned and boiled alive.
While Yulin has only been in existence since the 1990s, the practice of eating dogs in Asia is over 4,000 years old, according to Michał Piotr Pręgowski’s Companion Animals in Everyday Life: Situating Human-Animal Engagement within Cultures. Increasingly, the presence of dog meat on menus in South Korea, Indonesia and beyond is becoming a widely recognised fact.
Nonetheless, the ‘festival’ is a travesty, in which cruelty and suffering are celebrated and enjoyed. In an age of growing ethical awareness, culture cannot be an excuse for either. Dogs may not have a history as companion animals in Chinese culture but the cruel treatment of any living creature should be regarded as the antithesis of emotional and intellectual progress.
Put simply, what kind of person can skin a flailing, crying animal alive? Not one you’d want to spend much time with. Meanwhile, the terrified, emaciated dogs stare out hopelessly from behind bars, listening to their cage mates screaming piteously; one belief system away from being the gentle, loving companions they could be.
This is not just cultural finger wagging. In 2016, the animal campaign group Humane Society International and its Chinese partner groups went to Beijing to submit a petition with 11 million signatures calling for an end to festival. And most Chinese want the practice stopped, regarding it as both barbaric and embarrassing for China’s global reputation. Encountering threats and aggression from dog meat traders, Asian activists work tirelessly to save the animals.
"The cruel treatment of any living creature should be regarded as the antithesis of emotional and intellectual progress."
Leading animal charities campaign vigorously against the event and the practice. Dozens of smaller charities do their best but, if anything characterises dog meat activism, it is the emotions it evokes: activist groups are riven by in-fighting, backbiting and one-upmanship while the animals continue to suffer. Yulin 2018 is set to go ahead as usual. In Indonesia’s extreme dog meat markets, the torture takes place 365 days a year. Priorities need to change.
Of course, the West is not blameless. As Julian Baggini wrote for the Guardian in 2014: “What should appal us about Yulin is not which particular animal is being killed, but that too many animals in the west are treated nearly or just as cruelly. Our problem is not that we ought to be less disgusted at what’s happening in China, but that we ought to be more disgusted by what’s going on in many farms here.” If you genuinely want to save the lives of millions of animals, start with the 8 billion killed in the UK for food each year.
But for now, as June 21 approaches, I urge you to take action to save the meat dogs. Below are six groups working with local partners to end the dog meat trade around Asia. Help the dogmeat dogs: by letting people know this is happening, by publicising the issue on social media, by signing petitions. Unless you have a strong stomach, avoid images from the dog meat industry. They are impossible to recover from.
1. SUPPORT THESE CHARITIES AND LET OTHER PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THEM.
1. Humane Society International: A global animal protection organization working to help all animals. Works extensively with partner organisations in the countries that eat dogs and cats. Earlier this year, it saved around 170 dogs from a South Korean dog meat farm; watch the video above. Donate, sign petitions and get more information at www.hsi.org/dogmeat
2. Duo Duo Project: Californian-based non-profit making advocacy organization founded by Andrea Gung, an Asian American who travels regularly between US and China to support local communities fighting the trade in dog meat. Donate, sign petitions and get more information at www.duoduoproject.org/
3. Soi Dog: Not-for-profit, legally registered charitable organization based in Thailand which helps homeless and abused dogs and cats of Asia and works to end the dog meat trade. Sponsor dogs, donate either money or veterinary supplies, volunteer or adopt at www.soidog.org
4. Animals Asia: Founded 1998, Animals Asia promotes compassion and respect for all animals and works to end the barbaric bear bile trade, the trade in dogs and cats for food in China and Vietnam and the abusive animal practices in zoos and safari parks in Asia. Find out more www.animalsasia.org/uk/
5. World Dog Alliance: Hong Kong-based charity dedicated to “promoting clear legislation on banning dog meat consumption” in countries around the world. Through the united efforts of NGOs and individuals, WDA hopes to end the suffering of dogs slaughtered every year in Asian countries. Get more information at www.worlddogalliance.org
6. Change for Animals Foundation. Working in partnership with local and international NGOs in order to achieve positive and lasting change for animals, Change for Animals is headed by the inspiring Lola Webber and recently persuaded over 90 celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Ellen DeGeneres and Ricky Gervais to sign a petition pushing for the end of the dog and cat meat trade in Indonesia. Get more information at www.changeforanimals.org
There are many smaller charities working to stop the trade including www.stopdogmeat.com, https://iheartdogs.com, www.greatergood.org. Yang XiaoYun is an elderly woman in Tianjin, China, who has rescued thousands of dogs from Yulin, dedicating her entire income to their care and rehabiliation. Research these carefully; some of them operate with kindness but unregulated.
2. USE SOCIAL MEDIA.
Follow your favourite charity working on behalf of dogs in the dog meat trade, repost or retweet from social media sites. There’s also @RaiseUrPaw and @stopyulin on Twitter. When you post on social media, add appopriate hashtags to communicate with like-minded groups. DuoDuo currently uses #YULIN365, #friendsnotfood and #EndDogEatingIn365 to signify that eating dogs happens all year round, not just in Yulin. Other charities use #enddogmeat #enddogmeattrade; #StopYulin is common. Use whichever feels most appropriate to you.
3. SIGN PETITIONS.
There are many petitions available. Start with www.change.org, www.avaaz.org and www.care2.com as well as smaller charities such as http://www.stopdogmeat.com/. Google ‘end dog meat petition’ and you will find hundreds. Petitions are often accompanied by graphic content. Please be aware of this when you search for them.
4. ADOPT A RESCUED DOG MEAT DOG
Several UK groups are fostering dogs rescued from the dog meat trade. Try All Dogs Matter (https://alldogsmatter.co.uk), Save Korean Dogs (savekoreandogs.org/) and Soi Dogs (https://www.soidog.org/adopt?species=1&sex=All&size=All&date_of_birth=All&page=1). Be aware that these are often gentle but traumatised animals who will need the patience of experienced owners who want nothing more than to love and cherish them. Once you’ve built your relationship with your new companion, explain to people where your dog comes from, what they’ve endured and how they've survived. Then direct them to this article.