dogs are sold for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival

What is the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and Should It Be Banned?


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Warning: This article on the Yulin Dog Meat Festival contains information and images of a sensitive nature that may be upsetting to some readers.

You may have heard about the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival held in China every year. As implied by the name, dogs are seen as livestock to be eaten. You can imagine this has caused an outcry from animal rights activists.

Among those who feel the festival ought to be banned are people who see dogs as companions. On the other hand, many still support this festival.

So what is the Yulin Dog Meat Festival? Why did it start and when and how does it happen? We’ve investigated to bring you these answers.

What is the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival?

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is not a ‘festival’ in the true sense, but rather a 10-day period over June that sees an increase in the consumption of dog meat. It occurs in the Guangxi province of China.

Dog meat is cooked and sold as food at other times throughout the year. However, from 21 to 30 June (21 June marks the beginning of summer in China) there’s a sharp increase and the dog meat is served alongside lychees and even cat meat.

Interestingly, this not condoned by the Chinese government. In fact, it goes against the 2020 Chinese government ban on raising dogs for meat.

For many pet owners the notion of eating dog or cat meat is a horror show, yet it’s legal to do so in several countries. You may be surprised to discover New Zealand is one of them.

Dog meat is eaten in several countries including Switzerland and Vietnam
Dog meat is eaten in other countries like Switzerland and Vietnam. Here it’s sold by a street food vendor in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2015.

Dog meat is not illegal in many countries

There are no laws against eating dog meat in New Zealand. In 2018, instead of giving up his dog to a shelter when his wife no longer wanted it, a local man cooked and ate it. He escaped charges because he’d butchered the dog humanely.

Dog meat is also widely eaten in Switzerland, especially over the Christmas period. In 2016, the consumption of dog meat in this European country resulted in more than 16,000 people signing a petition in an attempt to end the practice.

Kiwi canines face other dangers too

Generally speaking, dogs in New Zealand are almost exclusively treated as companion animals. Even so, they do face macabre dangers – many are put to sleep because of shelters running out of capacity. If for no other, this is a great reason to adopt a dog.

Another ongoing danger is puppy farms. Puppy farms are breeding plants for raising and selling puppies inhumanely, for the expressed goal of profit. Breeding dogs are often abused and neglected and made to live in the confines of small cages with no stimulation.

As with any trade, this can be brought to a standstill if we all know how to buy a puppy responsibly. Read how to avoid puppy mills in New Zealand by finding ethical dog breeders.

while this dog won't be sold as meat it's likely to be euthanised in a shelter
A dog in a New Zealand shelter won’t be sold as meat but is likely to be euthanised due to overcrowding.

Should the Yulin Dog Meat Festival be banned?

Many animal rights activists and pet owners want the Chinese government to stop the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival permanently.

The 2020 ban on raising dogs for meat has been somewhat effective in slowing it down but hasn’t stopped it altogether. While early on the festival resulted in as many as 10,000 dogs being eaten recent numbers have dipped to a mere tenth of that. However, it’s likely the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival will continue this year.

So how did it start? And why does it happen?

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival’s economic origins

The contravention of animal rights often results from economic pressures. In New Zealand for example, a 2018 report reflected the Auckland council euthanised nearly 17,000 dogs in just five years. (Read our article on putting a pet to sleep and when it’s humane to do so).

Shelters are overcrowded and underfunded all over the world. But some animal welfare advocates also claim that money is made from ending the lives of shelter dogs.

Likewise, economic factors also drove the Yulin and Dog Meat Festival into existence. Eating dog meat isn’t part of Chinese tradition and the festival is relatively new, having started in 2009. It was spurred on by traders hoping to boost sales.

China says no to the eating of dog meat

Most people in China have never eaten dog meat and don’t support or approve of the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival.

The Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China declared: dogs are our companion animals and shouldn’t be treated as livestock.

To elaborate, fewer than 20% of people in China eat dog meat. A 2016 survey reported that more than half the population (64%) hope to end the Yulin and Dog Meat Festival. Additionally, 52% want to end the trade of dog meat trade altogether.

And, the province of Shenzen has banned the consumption of dog and cat meat.

Caged dogs at a street market sold for meat
Caged dogs at a street market, District of Foshan City, Guangdong Province in Southern China on March 16th, 2013.

All animals deserve rights

In any one year an estimated 10 million dogs are eaten in China. These are big figures. Yet they pale when compared to the 671.28 million pigs and 9.3 billion chickens that are eaten each year.

Perhaps this is why activists fighting to defend the cats and dogs from Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival are coming under fire. Critics have asked why cats and dogs can be defended unlike farm animals?

In most parts of the world, farming and eating sheep, pigs and cows is a recognised and accepted practice. But at the heart of it, these are warm-blooded animals that feel pain the way we do. They’re also intelligent. People who own pet pigs know the strength of bonds that are formed – unsurprising given pigs are just as intelligent as dogs.

For many the question is not whether to stop the Yulin and Dog Meat Festival in China permanently. Instead it’s about whether humans should eat meat at all.

Those in support of this argument say domestic animals have evolved to bond with humans. We share a connection with the animals we’re eating, whether they’re cows, pigs, dogs or cats. So who gets to draw the line and where?

Concerns around the Yulin dog meat festival have also raised concerns about eating other animals like this pig
Many critics feel those who advocate for the banning of dog meat should also consider the animal rights of livestock.

There are several concerns about dog safety throughout the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Firstly, the origins of the dogs aren’t certifiable. Some are strays but police have encountered truckloads of dogs, some of whom wear collars.

Health concerns for the dogs and humans

This points to many having been stolen and implies some dogs were pets. Dog theft is another danger to dogs that’s being driven by economic factors. Read about the increase in stolen dogs in New Zealand that are resold as pets for profit.

Secondly, the dogs retrieved before being sold are often badly injured and starved. Chinese policy expert, Peter Li of the Humane Society International, says: “Cruelty and suffering exist at every part of [the dog] trade.

Thirdly, there are potential health risks for humans too. Sick or diseased animals are more likely to pass on zoonotic diseases like mad cow disease, swine flu and avian flu.

When it comes to dogs, the threat of a zoonotic parasite called trichinellosis can be fatal. There are several other known illnesses that can be transmitted including rabies, cholera, salmonella and E.coli. Read more on zoonotic transmission in our article on the COVID-19 vaccination for pets.

A dog rescued from the Yulin Dog Meat Festival is treated for injuries and illness
An ill and injured dog receives veterinary treatment from volunteers after the truck it was in was intercepted.

How do dogs meet their fate?

Because dogs are classified as companion animals in China, they can’t be slaughtered in a butchery like livestock. As a result dog meat may be prepared in less than ideal situations, such as back alleys. This is both cause for concern in terms of health as well as the treatment of the dogs before meeting their fate.

Makeshift setups make it likelier for dogs to be killed inhumanely. Dogs also witness other dogs being slaughtered before meeting the same fate.

The bond between pets and humans

Our reaction to seeing how many dogs and cats never get to experience the bond of human friendship shows how meaningful our bonds with pets is. Being a pet owner is the experience of a lifetime and one that deserves to be cherished.

Anything that deserves to be cherished also deserves to be safeguarded. That’s where having a pet insurance plan comes in handy.

Kiwi pet owner plays with her dog

Pet medical care can be prohibitively expensive. Veterinary knowledge and equipment are just as valuable as that of doctors. So it makes sense that when vets need to do a surgical procedure for a dog or cat, the costs are fairly equivalent.

With a pet insurance plan you can afford to think of your pet and not worry about your savings. With PD Insurance, your cat insurance or dog insurance plan also covers third party liability. If your pet happens to cause damage to someone else, their pet or their belongings, you won’t bear the brunt of the costs alone.

Get a quote today. It’s fast, easy and you get one or more months of free pet insurance. Click below to start.

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