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Why Activists Are Trying to Ban the Yulin Dog Festival (And How You Can Help)


Animal activists have been united in their efforts to ban the Yulin Dog Festival in China, a 10-day event where around 10,000 dogs are eaten every year. Activists have been setting up shelters for pups rescued from the festival, while others have created petitions and fundraisers to help shut down the festivities for once and for all.

If you consider yourself an animal lover, do your part to bring this horrendous practice to an end.

What is the Yulin Dog Festival?

The festival takes place during the last week of June every year in a rural city known as Yulin in the Guangxi province of China. It started in 2009 as a way of marking the summer solstice. According to Chinese folklore, eating dog meat during the summer can bring good luck and health. Others believe that the meat can ward off disease and increase men’s sexual performance.

Eating dog meat is considered a tradition in parts of China. The practice can be traced back some 400 years, and experts say between 10 and 20 million dogs are killed for human consumption every year.

However, critics say this festival is anything but humane. The animals are reportedly beaten with clubs with poor hygiene regulations that would make any food safety officer cringe. Critics also accuse participants of keeping dogs in cramped cages as they travel hundreds of miles to the festival. Some of the animals were even spotted wearing collars, which suggest that they may have been stolen from previous owners. The World Health Organization says the festival can spread rabies and cholera.

Public opinion towards dogs has changed in recent years. China’s growing middle-class now owns around 62 million pets. Many people have come to love and admire these animals like members of their own family, leading to backlash against the Yulin Dog Festival. A 2016 survey found that 64% of Chinese residents wanted the Yulin festival shut down and 69.5% have never eaten dog meat.

The Yulin Municipal Government says it can only do so much to stop the festival. It claims it isn’t listed as an official event, and many of the participants have taken the festivities underground by operating out of their homes. The festival is no longer being promoted with signage, but the event still lives on.

There is hope that the Chinese government will soon shut down the festival for good. In 2020, the government referred to dogs as “companions,” signaling that a ban on dog meat may be in the works. Several cities and municipalities have banned dog meat for human consumption. It’s also believed that the coronavirus may have originated from a wet market in China. That led to a temporary ban on all trade and consumption of wild animals, but it’s possible the ban could become permanent.

Dr. Peter Li, a public policy expert in China, called the festival a “bloody spectacle [which] does not reflect the mood or eating habits of the majority of the Chinese people.”

“Now that the Chinese government has officially recognized dogs as companions and not livestock, we are hopeful that China will take stronger steps to hasten the end of the dog and cat meat trade for which millions of animals continue to suffer every year,” Li added.

How You Can Get Involved

Despite these changes, animal activists say even one dog lost to the meat trade is too many.

The Vanderpump Dog Foundation is one of the many organizations leading the cause. They set up a dog sanctuary in China to help rescue these animals from the meat trade. 

Many of them are malnourished or suffering from chronic conditions. So far, they’ve rescued over 500 dogs from the Yulin Festival. The 14-person team in China also spays and neuters the animals to prevent overpopulation. The group is also working to find these animals a new home. Many of the pets have been sent to new families as they recover from their injuries.

Extreme temperatures and the coronavirus have made it difficult for the group to continue its work. The foundation is in the process of relocating to another facility, but transporting each dog costs around $100 per dog, or $2,500 per trip. 

You can donate directly to Vanderpump Dog Foundation on its website to help them continue the work. You can also start your own fundraiser, add your name to the group’s petition for ending the festival, or sign up to volunteer.

If you want to learn more about this horrific practice and how you can help shut it down, watch the 2017 documentary The Road to Yulin And Beyond on Amazon Prime. All proceeds go directly to the Vanderpump Dog Foundation.

We all need to work together if we are going to bring the Yulin Dog Festival to an end. Spread the word, so we can find these animals new homes!

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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