Why China’s Yulin dog meat festival is a wake-up call to the world.

What does this festival, and the year-round dog meat trade, reflect in us?

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated June 7, 2016

Much to the outrage of animal lovers across the world, the city of Yulin in China became the site of a dog meat eating festival. But what does this festival, and our feelings toward it, reflect in us?

Thousands of terrified dogs — some who are stolen companion animals and others who were living on the streets — are butchered for human consumption at the annual Yulin dog eating ‘celebration’. Forced to travel long distances crammed into crowded wire cages, the dogs languish without food or water as they await an awful fate.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A overcrowded cage with stressed dogs in it at yulin dog meat festival
The suffering of dogs during transport and as they await slaughter is extreme. On arrival, many watch on as those before them are killed.

The Yulin dog meat festival only began in 2010. It was started by dog meat traders as a way to boost business, but it quickly attracted the ire of the international community.

While news of the festival was distressing, there was some comfort to be found in the extraordinary mainstream media coverage and the public outrage that accompanied it. Worldwide, concern for animals and their welfare was evidently on the rise — as was the public’s determination to bring about positive change.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A sad photo of a dog sitting next to the stall of skinned dogs hanging in a meat shop on street in yulin china
A dog stares at dogs who have been killed and hung up for sale in Dong Kou market.

Brilliant campaign work by Animals Asia and Humane Society International gave global recognition to the dog and cat victims of this trade, and continues to do so.

International pressure became so intense that in 2014 the government of Yulin vowed to no longer support the festival. No ‘official’ dog meat festival has run since, but dog meat consumption still occurs — during the summer solstice period when the festival occurs ‘unofficially’, but also throughout the year.

From the perspective of Chinese authorities there is no action to take, because eating dog meat is not illegal in China — just as it is not illegal in Australia to eat pig meat (despite pigs being sensitive and affectionate animals just like dogs).

Without cultural change, any victory to stop the dog meat eating festival is likely to be short-lived. To properly protect dogs, it will take those who have grown up eating dog meat to widen their circle of compassion and view dogs as friends, not ‘food’.

Compassion through cultural change

To those in other countries, it seems unfathomable that some people might see no ethical problem with consuming meat from ‘humankind’s best friend’. There are many in China who have also grown to love dogs as pets, and to them, the practice is unthinkable. But for those whose ancestors have eaten dogs for thousands of years, the power of cultural conditioning is profound.

It’s nearly impossible to comprehend — until you realise that here in Australia we are victims of the very same cultural conditioning.

We too have been raised in a society that has normalised the slaughter and consumption of domesticated animals — animals who are capable of experiencing fear and suffering — animals who will show affection, joy, and unique personality traits, if given the chance. But rather than ‘dogs’ and ‘cats’, we call them ‘pigs’, ‘lambs’, ‘cows’ and ‘chickens’.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A cute young pig looking to the camera

By widening our circle of compassion to those we have been taught to think of as ‘food’, rather than ‘friends’, we shape a kinder future for everyone. Like those who value dogs only for their meat, many of us have simply never been given the opportunity to appreciate certain animals — like pigs, chickens and cows — for the unique and curious individuals that they are.

Scientists now know that cows have best friends; that sheep can learn to respond to their own name; that chickens exhibit cognitive abilities beyond that of young human children; and that pigs show empathy and can even play computer games designed for chimpanzees…

Check out this video of animals experiencing freedom – tail wagging, zoomies, joyful jumps and all.

Help protect all animals from cruelty

As consumer demand has led to certain animals being confined and killed for food, thankfully it is us, as consumers, who have the power to turn it around 

We can help shape the future we wish to see — one where all animals are extended the compassion they deserve. If you would like to learn more about how you can bring this shared vision to life, ‘join the evolution’ and order your free guide today.