The Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, commonly referred to as Yulin Dog Meat Festival, is an annual celebration held in Yulin, Guangxi, China, during the summer solstice in which festival goers eat dog meat and lychees. The festival spans about ten days during which it is estimated that 10,000–15,000 dogs are consumed. The festival has been criticised by animal welfare and animal rights supporters.
The tradition of dog meat consumption began over 400 years ago in China. Many believe that dog meat would help ward off the heat felt through the summer months. It wasn't until recent years when the festival in Yulin began.
The festival is celebrated annually in Yulin, Guangxi, China, during the summer solstice in June, by eating dog meat and lychees. About 10,000 to 15,000 dogs are consumed during the 10 days of the festival.This number has decreased to 1000 in 2014. Throughout the 10 days of festivities dogs are paraded in wooden crates and metal cages and are taken to be skinned and cooked for consumption of festival attendants and local residents.
In a 2014 statement released to Xinhua, Yulin's local government denies any official involvement or endorsement of the festival itself, and describes the event as a local custom observed by "a small percentage" of Yulin's residents. They attribute the branding of the event to local businesses and residents.
Animal welfare concerns
The local residents and festival organizers claim that the dogs are killed humanely and that "eating dog is no different from eating pork or beef". Animal rights activists and campaigners, however, claim that the animals are "treated abominably", based on photographs of the event. An American witness claimed that some of the dogs eaten appeared to be stolen household pets, judging by their collars.
An editorial published by the People's Daily expressed the view that while activists understand dogs as "companion animals", neither the Chinese legal system or the current Chinese public moral standards recognize them with this special status. While noting the "duality" of dogs as both companions and food items, the editorial urges restraint in handling the issue and calls mutual understanding from both organizers and activists in reaching a respectful compromise.
An editorial published by Global Times strongly criticized what the writer believed to be the Western obsession over the treatment of dogs, and cited bullfighting as an example of animal cruelty to which the West has turned a blind eye. He further categorised the controversy as a part of a Western campaign against China, and dismissed criticism and protests as "non-noteworthy".
In The Guardian, the philosopher Julian Baggini considered the hypocrisy of western meat-eaters being outraged by the Chinese eating "cute animals", commenting that "the double standards at play here are numerous, complicated, and not always obvious", and that "vegans are the only group who can oppose the festival without any fear of hypocrisy".
Writing in The Independent, Ashitha Nagesh compared the festival with the 1.9 million animals "brutally slaughtered" in the UK every month, noting that "the western distinction between dogs and farm animals is completely arbitrary".
An American professor of East Asian politics noted that opposition to eating dog meat at the festival began with the Chinese themselves, as "the bond between companion animals and humans is not Western. It's a transcultural phenomenon".
A retired school teacher, Yang Xiaoyun, paid ¥150,000 to rescue 360 dogs and tens of cats from the festival in 2014, and ¥7,000 to rescue 100 dogs in 2015. She was later discredited when it emerged she had lied about the number of dogs saved and found to abuse animals in her care.
In June 2015, an online petition against the festival was started in the United Kingdom, gathering over 4 million signatures. It was reported in 2016 that the US-based campaign group, HSI organised a petition in opposition to the dog eating festival which was signed by 11 million people worldwide.
In 2016, 1,000 dogs were rescued from the festival; the previous week 34 animals (21 dogs, eight puppies, and five cats and kittens) were rescued from a slaughter facility in Yulin by the Humane Society International (HSI) organisation.
Chinese celebrities such as Chen Kun, Yang Mi, and Fan Bingbing, as well as western celebrities including Ricky Gervais, Ian Somerhalder, Leona Lewis, Lori Alan, Tom Kenny, and Rob Zombie have publicly expressed a distaste for the festival. In October 2015, a protest march organized by TV personality Lisa Vanderpump and Sharon Osbourne took place from MacArthur Park to the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles.
Social media campaigns have had a significant impact on spreading awareness of the festival around the globe. Many activist and public figures take to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and have created hashtags such as "#stopyulinforever", "#stopyulin2015", and "#stopyulin2016" to spread the word. Because of the social media campaigns the number of dogs slaughtered have steadily decreased since 2013 from over 10,000 to 1,000.