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The Yulin Dog Meat Festival: A History Of Suffering & Controversy

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on June 20, 2019

June 21, 2019 marks the start of the 10th annual Yulin “Lychee and Dog Meat” festival. Tucked away in a remote corner of the country, Yulin, China was virtually unknown to the rest of the world before this yearly “celebration” began.

Animal rights activists, celebrities, and average citizens the world over have spoken out against the festival, yet it continues to this day.

How did the heartbreaking practice begin? What does the festival represent to its participants? And most importantly, how can we help end the Chinese dog meat trade?

What is the Yulin Dog Meat Festival?

The Yulin “Lychee and Dog Meat” festival is a 10 day event held from June 21 to June 30. Participants flock to Yulin – a city in the Guangxi province of China – to consume dog meat, cat meat, fresh lychees, and liquor. An estimated 10,000 dogs are consumed each year.

Tragically, many of the dogs and cats slaughtered during the festival are thought to be stolen family pets.

“Most dogs and cats caught up in China’s meat trade are believed to be strays snatched from the streets and pets stolen from people’s backyards, in clear violation of Chinese laws,” Humane Society International writes. “They are crammed into wire cages and driven for hours or even days across the country, before reaching the slaughterhouse where they are beaten to death.”

What is the History of the Event?

The first Yulin Dog Meat festival was held in 2009 to mark the summer solstice. However, Chinese consumption of dog meat can be traced back to around 1700 B.C. when it was considered an important sacrificial offering to the gods.

In addition, Chinese folklore states that eating dog meat during the summer solstice brings luck, wards off disease, and may even heighten sexual performance in men.

According to Humane Society International, the Yulin festival has nothing to do with tradition. Instead, the celebration was created “by dog traders trying to boost flagging dog meat sales.” HSI notes that “before the festival started, Yulin had no history of mass dog slaughter and consumption.”

Do All Chinese People Eat Dog?

It is important to understand that not all Chinese people eat dog meat. In fact, it is only a small minority of the population that take part in this practice.

More than 60% of Chinese residents currently oppose the Yulin festival and the stigma it puts on their country. Even the local government of Yulin denies any official involvement with the festival.

While owning a dog was once banned by Mao Zedong, 62 million pups are now registered as family pets. That number is expected to rise with each passing year.

What is Being Done to End Yulin & the Chinese Dog Meat Trade?

According to the welfare group, AnimalsAsia, the number of dogs killed at the Yulin festival has been declining each year since 2015. However, this event accounts for less than 0.01% of the approximately 10 million dogs slaughtered each year.

“Ending Yulin won’t end dog eating. But ending dog eating will end Yulin.” –

AnimalsAsia – and other groups like them – are helping to abolish the dog meat industry in China by:

  • Conducting undercover investigations of restaurants, live animal markets and slaughterhouses.
  • Funding local grassroots groups fighting the dog and cat meat trade on the ground in China.
  • Putting pressure on authorities to investigate dog meat traders, and strengthen enforcement.
  • Funding spay and neuter programs to reduce stray cat and dog populations humanely.
  • Running high-profile public awareness and behaviour change campaigns.
  • Coordinating community outreach to show people young and old, that dogs and cats are friends… not food.

How Can You Help?

Sign AnimalAsia and Humane Society International’s petitions and consider making a donation to support their cause.

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