A Look At China's Yulin Dog Meat Festival, Which Many Activists Are Fighting To End

Dogs are man's best friend, or so the saying goes in the western hemisphere. That's why so many people are disgusted and horrified by the Yulin Dog Festival, an annual event in the city of Yulin, China where thousands of dogs are slaughtered and eaten by the locals. While eating dog meat seems barbaric to many people, it's been a normal activity in parts of China for hundreds of years. In fact, there are many cultures that eat canines. Activists around the world have been trying to stop the Yulin Dog Festival for years but the controversial dog meat festival is still going strong despite their best efforts.

So what really happens at the Yulin Dog Festival and is it as bad as those on the western side of the globe imagine? It's hard to judge the people of Yulin, considering how many people eat pigs and cows without batting an eye but critics of the festival are adamant that dogs are unique because of their relationships with humans. It is also true that many of the dogs that make the trip to Yulin are treated poorly. The ensuing facts about the Yulin festival should settle the debate about dog meat once and for all. 

  • 10,000 Dogs Are Slaughtered Annually For This Festival

    Although estimates say that only about 30% of the people in Yulin actually eat dog meat on a fairly regular basis, that doesn't mean there isn't a massive demand for it. Every year it's believed that 10,000 to 15,000 dogs are brought to Yulin to be butchered for meat, and that's just for the festival. The dogs are often kept in horrendous conditions during their transport to Yulin, according to animal rights activists.

    Dogs can be shipped to Yulin from all over the country, sometimes traveling as much as a thousand miles in cramped cages that are a breeding ground for disease. Many dogs don't survive the initial journey, while others are horribly malnourished by the time they arrive in Yulin. 

  • Many Of The Dogs Served At The Festival Are Actually Stolen Pets

    Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing about this whole festival is that there's no oversight when it comes to the collection of dogs. While some are farmed, many are homeless dogs that are picked up off the street and shipped to Yulin. Some dogs may even be stolen family pets and festival attendees have seen dogs for sale that are still wearing their collars. In one village, the locals reported that a third of all pet dogs had been stolen by criminals looking to profit from their meat. 

    Keeping dogs as pets has not always been a common practice in many parts of China but pet ownership rates are skyrocketing throughout the country. This is starting to change people's views of dogs as food sources but there's still much to be done to truly affect change. 

  • There Are Barely Any Regulations Regarding The Quality Of Dog Meat Served

    If the moral objections aren't enough to stop you from eating dog meat at the Yulin Festival, the health hazards will surely do the trick. There are very few regulations regarding the quality of canine flesh and even the few that exist are largely unenforced.

    Vendors openly sell dogs that have been picked up from the street or have spent lots of time in disgusting conditions that leave them vulnerable to disease. Some accounts put the number of dogs at the Yulin festival that carry an infectious disease as high as 40%.

  • Cats Are Also Eaten At The Festival

    Dogs aren't the only furry friends on the menu in Yulin. Unfortunately, house cats are eaten as well, though they are less popular than dogs. While many people in China are changing their attitudes about animal abuse, there is still a demand for these types of meats in certain parts of the country.

    Cat meat is not limited to the Yulin festival, as there are many restaurants who buy and serve cat as a part of their normal menu. 

  • The Festival Only Started In 2009

    While it is true that dog meat has been consumed in China for hundreds of years, the Yulin Dog Festival is actually a recent invention. There is no long standing town tradition celebrating dog meat, as the festival began less than 10 years ago. The first Yulin Dog Festival occurred in 2009 but it's is often promoted as a cultural tradition.

    The festival also commemorates the summer solstice and dog meat is believed by some to have medicinal properties that help beat the heat. 

  • The Festival Is Not Officially Recognized By The Chinese Government

    While the festival is often called the Yulin Dog Festival, the actual government of Yulin has nothing to do with it. They claim that the festival is a tradition upheld by the public and that there is nothing they can do to stop it, especially since there are no laws against the buying or selling of dog meat in China. Local government officials actually publicly bemoan the festival as it brings a lot of negative press coverage to the city every year. Yulin even passed a law in 2016 that makes it illegal to slaughter dogs in public.

    But just because the act isn't visible in the streets doesn't mean that it isn't happening behind closed doors.