Amid immense public pressure, the Guangxi government has put a halt to the notorious Yulin Dog Meat Festival, which was scheduled this year for June 21 and 22. According to Hong Kong animal rights activists, Guangxi authorities promise to make sure the massive slaughter of dogs won't happen by enforcing laws related to food safety and public hygiene.
Animal activists from around the world have been calling for an end to the festival for years. On June 10, 24 of them handed a petition signed by 11 million people from around the world over to the Beijing office of the Yulin city government. Addressing Chinese President Xi Jinping, the petition urged:
With the dog meat festival in Yulin causing such severe animal suffering, risking human health, damaging China’s global reputation, and involving widespread illegal behaviour, as well as breaching China’s own food safety laws, it is time for the Chinese Government to take firm action to end this event for good. In doing so you will clearly show your leadership in protecting the well-being of both people and animals, and demonstrate that China’s global reputation as a progressive nation will not be besmirched by such activities.
Festival opponents say the majority of the dogs consumed during the festival are stolen. Unlike other livestock, currently there is no inspection of the safety of dog meat in China, making the consumption of dog meat a potential threat to public health. The video below produced by Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project two years ago explains the issue in detail:
In response to the activist's outcry, nationalist tabloid Global Times labelled western media and animal right activists as “cultural extremists”:
Some western media and animal right organizations have made a mountain out of mole hill and claimed that the “dog meat festival” represents China's national image. They claim if the government steps in to end the festival the consequence would be like this, or else the consequence would be like that. This is somehow a reflection of cultural extremism.
However, the pressure to stop the festival is not only coming from outside China or from Chinese activist circles. The state-affiliated People.com's public opinion analytics team recently conducted an online poll, and among the 30,000 respondents, 64% supports a ban on consuming dog meat. Only 24.4% of respondents said they object to a ban.
That report stressed that the consumption of dog meat is not mainstream Chinese culture and characterized the festival as a step backwards:
Being humane to animals is not a western value. China has had laws against animal abuse since the Qing Dynasty. Hence, the introduction of new regulations against the dog meat festival, which involves the massive and cruel slaughter and consumption of dogs, is consistent with Chinese culture. The government should condemn illegal stealing, transportation and sale of dog meat. […] Since ancient times, China has had the tradition of not presenting dog meat to guests. The so-call festival is a public dog meat eating gathering and some shops even slaughter dogs in the open street. Such behavior is a cultural regression.
The dog meat festival started in 1990s as a tourist attraction to celebrate the arrival of summer. People in Yulin believe that eating dog meat in early summer brings good health to a person. The festival had been supported by the city government, but ceased to do so in 2014 as more and more people were speaking out against it. However, the government did not stop the event from taking place the year after by enforcing laws related to food safety and public hygiene.
Michael Tien Puk Sun, the representative of the National People Congress from Hong Kong, told the press that the Yulin government has promised that there will no public slaughtering of dogs. However, they won't stop people from consuming dog meat in private.
Animal rights activists from Guangxi have confirmed that thus far there are no street banners about the festival in Yuli. However, they still have doubts regarding the government's sincerity about enforcing the law, whether the decision to stop the festival is way to wash their hands of a “spontaneous” local cultural event. Some are worried too that the intense scrutiny of the festival could backfire as more people get to know about Yulin and travel there for dog meat.