July 3, 2013
Yulin Dog Meat Festival Goes Ahead, But in Subdued Fashion
An interview with HSI's Dr. Peter Li
More than 30,000 HSI supporters signed our online petition calling for the cancellation of a dog meat festival planned for June 21 in Yulin, China. We spoke with Dr. Peter Li, HSI’s China specialist, about what happened.
HSI: Did the festival go on as planned?
Peter: The event was not cancelled, but it was much subdued compared to last year. I am told that public slaughter did not happen, display in the streets of dogs waiting to be killed was not seen, and billboards advertising the festival were removed. Instead, dogs were butchered out of view and their carcasses hung in restaurant windows and market stalls.
Last year, the organizers claimed that more than 10,000 dogs were slaughtered per day; this year, they made no such revelation.
Pressure from Chinese and international organizations and citizens apparently convinced Yulin authorities that it was a bad idea to publicize a controversial eating habit. In mid-June, they actually conducted a six-department joint law enforcement action to crack down on unlicensed slaughter operations.
HSI: A press conference about this issue was held in China during the week of the festival. Did it have any effect?
Peter: Chinese activists, Buddhist monks, scholars, and reporters attended a press event on June 17 calling for an end to the dog meat festival in the interest of public health, animal welfare, social morality, and social stability. Our letter to the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. and the many signatures of HSI supporters were shown. Media reports reached hundreds of millions of Chinese; phone calls following the press event almost incapacitated the phone service of the Yulin mayor’s office. Reports overwhelmingly questioned the dog meat festival and the dog-eating habit.
The changes to this year’s event were certainly a result of active intervention by the authorities. Some Chinese celebrities also joined in the opposition to Yulin. Stopping public killing is no small accomplishment.
HSI: Were there a lot of protesters and how did they impact the festival?
Peter: Some 20 activists converged on Yulin between June 3 and June 22, attracting journalists from mainland China and Hong Kong. Among them were famous Chinese artists who protested in front of the gigantic Yulin government office building, holding signs calling for an end to the dog meat festival. And across the country, hundreds of thousands of people voiced their views condemning the festival through social media.
The authorities and the dog meat industry know very well that the voices of opposition can never be underestimated. Bear farming used to be promoted by the Chinese government as a “poverty reduction activity,” but the Chinese public has never stopped challenging it and in 20 years, its reputation has gone from “highly praised” to “morally discredited” business operation. I believe that the dog meat trade will follow a similar path.
HSI: What’s next?
Peter: Dog eating is increasingly losing ground in China. I am cautiously optimistic that this habit will be history in the future.
HSI must continue our engagement with China's dog meat trade and street dog overpopulation issues through our local partner groups. We should encourage advocates to keep pointing out the potential dangers of dog eating to human health, public morality and China’s international reputation. Our efforts in China can help make headway on this matter in Korea and Vietnam as well.