Friend or food? Dog meat trade divides China

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BEIJING: Millions of social media users have resented China’s annual dog meat festival signing petitions to call it off, a media report said on Saturday. Yulin in Guangxi province in China is celebrating its annual dog meat festival due to begin on June 21.

Since 2010, every year as many as 10,000 dogs are taken to Yulin for the slaughter. Many animals die from shock, starvation and dehydration on the journey. The traumatised ones who do survive are beaten to death or their throats slit in street markets and illegal slaughterhouses, animal rights campaigners say. The festival originated in Guangxi Zhuang region`s Yulin prefecture. The festival, which involves killing of 10,000 dogs for human consumption, falls on Sunday this year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

And, there are fears that the mass transportation of the animals will present an increased risk of rabies. For, Guangxi province, where the festival is based has the highest levels of rabies in China and Yulin, with 338 deaths from the disease between 2002-2006 alone.

As many as 20 million dogs are killed in China each year and eaten as the meat is believed to help protect from evil ghosts and disease. Some men believe it will help boost their sexual performance.

Over the years, the festival has become a point of debate. Outrage on social media over this year`s festival is unprecedented, the Global Times reported.

There has been much international condemnation of the annual so-called dog meat festival in Yulin. The event is in fact the city’s summer solstice festival, and will take place on the weekend of 21 and 22 June. Traditionally some 10,000 dogs and, more recently cats, are slaughtered for consumption at the event, all washed down with gallons of lychee wine.

An unprecedented global social media campaign has taken off in the last few weeks: the Twitter hashtag #stopyulin2015 has been used hundreds of thousands of times this year and a Facebook group, Stop Yulin Dog & Cat Meat Festival 2015, has more than 17,000 “likes”. A Change.org petition against the event by the US animal rights group Duo Duo closed after attracting more than 200,000 signatures.

There has been a backlash from Chinese “netizens” – Chinese slang for online citizens – against finger-wagging foreigners. As the industry is largely unregulated, estimates about the amount of dog meat consumed in China are uncertain. 

As the industry is largely unregulated, estimates about the amount of dog meat consumed in China are uncertain.

“Dog-meat eating is a custom belonging to other people, the same way that people of the Islamic Hui ethnic group doesn’t eat pork,” one netizen wrote. “They won’t protest us for eating pork. We should mutually respect each other. If you don’t want to eat something, then don’t.” Another wrote: “Let’s all protest the Christmas practice of eating turkey!”

According to Chinese lore, eating dog meat stimulates internal heat, making it a food that wards off winter cold. The June dog-meat eating custom in Yulin began in the 1990s, but the consumption of dogs in China is thought to predate written history. In the rural south, dog meat is eaten mainly by members of the older generations, and according to superstition it has strong heating qualities, making it popular in the winter – often eaten as part of a steaming hot-pot.

But on this inaugural day of summer, it`s a superstition that is driving dog consumption, as the meat is being said to bring good luck and health.

While preparing for the festival, dogs are transported from every corner of China. Some dogs die on the way while being carried on truck. Many suffer such horrendous injuries that they cannot stand in the filthy pens they are transferred to.The surviving dogs are clubbed over the head and have their throats cut open before being thrown into the boiling water. The butcher then plucks all the hair, removes all the organs and puts the dog on the grill.

On Thursday, the Yulin government reiterated that it did not support the “so-called festival” and promised to come down hard on anyone caught stealing or poisoning dogs.

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