Dog lovers around the world are likely sharing a sigh of relief right now after learning that China is taking steps to ban the country’s largest dog meat festival. The yearly event, known as the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, has been going on since 2009 in the city of Yulin, which is located in southern China’s Guangxi province.
The Yulin government has taken a stance against the festival in years past, prohibiting government employees from participating and closing some of the local dog meat markets, but this recent move marks the Yulin government’s biggest act of protest yet against the festival.
Although the festival itself is fairly young (it first began in 2009), thousands of dogs and cats have been captured off the streets, stolen from their owners, imprisoned, and butchered every year in the days and weeks leading up to the big event. In fact, it was estimated that 10,000 dogs and cats were killed for their meat around the time of the festival last year.
Sadly, cruelty is a central part of the tradition. Some locals believe that extreme stress actually makes the dog meat taste better, so they keep them locked up in small, dirty cages and pay little attention to any health issues they may have—which could be particularly dangerous if a dog is carrying a cross-species communicable illness while cooped up in a tiny cage around dozens of other dogs. When the time of the festival arrives, the dogs are often removed from their cages and skinned on the spot.
A number of animal advocacy groups have been gaining momentum over the years in their efforts to put an end to the cruel event. This year, Humane Society International and the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project worked together to raise awareness about the festival, and their hard work seems to have paid off. China’s policy specialist at Humane Society International, Peter Li, recently told the BBC that authorities would be fining those found violating the ban on dog meat sales this year.
“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” said Andrea Gung, executive director of Duo Duo Project. “I have visited Yulin many times in the last two years. This ban is consistent with my experience that Yulin and the rest of the country are changing for the better. I am very impressed that the younger generation in Yulin and in China is as compassionate as their counterparts in the rest of world.”
Hopefully Gung is right, and Yulin’s younger generation is beginning to lose interest in the idea of dog meat festivals. Regardless, for dog and cat lovers around the world, this ban is definitely a step in the right direction.