The Yulin Festival, founded in 2009, spans over 10 days in late June involves dogs from all over the country been transported in appalling conditions to the city of Yulin where they are left to watch on as those before them are slaughtered, often inhumanely. In Asia, dogs are sadistically made to experience extreme fear and suffering as due to a misguided and widely held belief that such treatment results in high adrenaline levels which produces tender meat and increases supposed health benefits. Dog meat is also a popular winter food in parts of China and Korea where the rich meat is believed to help keep people warm. It should be noted that dog is typically eaten by older members in rural parts of China and is not widespread in other parts of the country. It is estimated that approximately 10 million dogs are slaughtered annually by the dog meat industry in China alone. As such, the Yulin Festival has attracted global outrage and attention with many animal activists and organisations calling for the abolishment of the festival and laws to prevent such cruelty.
Well-known celebrities including Ricky Gervais and Brazilian Gisele Bundchen have been outspoken critics of the annual festival and promoted petitions calling for its end. This years’ festival has been faced with intense international pressure resulting in the city’s council vowing to not support the festival and a reported drop in number of dogs killed at the festival. The video posted by The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation showed the rescue of 1000 dogs from this years’ festival. The foundation has continued to work to stop animal cruelty over the years with their most recent efforts through a ‘Compassion Project’ featuring many well-known hollywood stars (video below). It is hoped that with enough pressure and awareness the festival will end in the near future. However, no matter how significant the attention from international media outlets no change is lasting unless cultural changes are made.
The coverage of the Yulin Festival from western media outlets has depicted Chinese citizens negatively for the unfathomable acts of killing and eating what they consider to be ‘man’s best friend’ but this attitude is not the approach to end animal cruelty in the world’s most populated country. The misconception of most westerners is that every Chinese person must eat dog meat which is not true at all. Similar to most westerners, many Chinese citizens living in cities have dogs as pets and also find the acts of their dog eating countrymen appalling. Instead of shaming an entire nation for the acts of a minority, the world must understand that this has been a long time culture that requires widening the circle of compassion for dogs for those who have grown up eating dog meat which will create lasting cultural change. With the immense attention given to the Yulin Festival, this is also an opportunity for us all to bring attention to the conditions that chickens, cows and other farm animals endure in today’s farming. Nobody is perfect but we can all strive for better treatment of animals by respecting and helping each other and bringing greater awareness of the cruel treatment animals are subjected to.