Dozens of terrified animals were rescued from a slaughterhouse in Yulin, China, just days ahead of the annual dog meat festival due to take place on June 21st. The animals, 34 dogs, puppies and kittens, were being held in squalid conditions at a slaughter facility in Yulin when Chinese activists, led by Humane Society International, arrived and negotiated the release of all the animals inside. Some of the dogs were wearing collars, suggesting these are pets stolen by dog thieves to fuel the trade, an increasingly common crime across China.
All of the animals have been transferred to a shelter where they are being evaluated and treated by veterinarians before being prepared for adoption. Whilst loving homes in China will be found for most of the animals, some of them may be flown to the UK and the US to start a new life.
Peter Li, HSI’s China policy specialist, led the rescue operation, and said: “The police presence is heavy in Yulin right now, and the atmosphere is very tense, so this was not an easy rescue. But we were determined to save animals from their gruesome fate at Yulin, and it was such a relief to leave the slaughterhouse cages empty for one day at least. The dogs and cats were clearly afraid, especially the older dogs who looked very fearful. But once they realized we weren’t there to hurt them, but in fact we would make their suffering stop at last, they very quickly responded with licks and wagging tails. It’s shocking to think that if we had not been there, all these animals would have been beaten to death and eaten.”
The Yulin dog meat festival begins in earnest on June 21, with thousands of dogs and cats set to be slaughtered and eaten. International and national protest against the killing has resulted in seeing the scale of the event reduced from as many as 15,000 dogs killed during the festival days in 2010, to an estimated 2-3,000 dogs killed last year. However, hundreds are still killed each day in the weeks leading up to the festival.
Last week HSI and The Humane Society of the United States, working with VShine and Beijing Mothers Against Animal Cruelty, submitted a petition to the Yulin and Chinese governments signed by more than 11 million people worldwide calling for an end to the brutal dog meat trade in China. The petition also included signatures from U.S.-based Duo Duo Project, Care2 and Avaaz and Canadian group RaiseURPaw.
Five facts about the Yulin dog meat festival
1. It’s not a traditional festival, it was only invented in 2010 by dog traders to boost profits
2. Before the festival started, Yulin had no history of mass dog slaughter and consumption
3. An estimated 30 million dogs a year are killed across Asia for their meat, some 10-20million in China alone, and thousands die just for Yulin
4. The World Health Organisation warns that the dog trade spreads rabies and increases the risk of cholera 20-fold
5. Dog meat is only eaten infrequently by less than 20 per cent of the Chinese population