The Yulin Dog and Cat Meat Festival
- Mar 9, 2015
So this was one's not for the faint-hearted. We catch up with the #StopYulin2015 team to find out about some of the horrors that occur as part of Yulin's Dog & Cat Festival in Guangxi province
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What is the Yulin dog & cat meat festival?
It is a few days and nights of feasting, bonding and drinking. The main ingredients are lychees, dog meat, cat meat and lychee wine. Around 10,000 dogs and 4,000 cats will be eaten during this week long festival that starts on the 21st June (summer solstice.)
Where is Yulin?
Yulin is in a region called Guangxi in the People's Republic of China. This region is an autonomous region. This means Yulin is not governed in the same way the rest of China is.
When does the festival take place?
Preparations start at the beginning of June, several weeks before the 21st by organising how the dogs and cats will be brought into Yulin. Stalls need to be organised, slaughterhouses need to ensure paperwork is in order (several illegal slaughterhouses were shut down prior to the festival this year). There were reports in 2014 that some people had a version of the festival a couple of weeks beforehand to avoid media attention. The feasting is usually an all night drinking affair on 21st June (the hottest day and the summer solstice). It is unclear how long the festival lasts. In previous years it has been a week long celebration but in 2014 with the festival being brought it was apparently cut short. These facts coupled with heavy the censoring by the Chinese government, leaves the actual length of the festival at question.
Who attends the festival?
Due to all the hype and advertising, people travel from other areas of China including Wuzhou, Guigang, Nanning
, Beihai and Qinzhou to Yulin to experience the festival atmosphere.
How do the dogs get there and where are they from?
Some are trucked in on lorries with quarantine certificates (under scrutiny many are discovered to be falsified.) Other dog and cat smugglers avoid main roads using motorcycles to get the animals into Yulin without the required paperwork. Sadly some owners bring their unwanted pets into Yulin to make a profit. There is CCTV footage of dogs being stolen from properties and there are reports of dogs being poisoned with darts and crossbows. We are also reliably informed that some dogs could quite possibly be breeder's unsold stock & unsold pets from pet shops.
How are cats treated for the festival?
There are no cat farms so the vast majority of the cats we see on the stalls at Yulin have usually been trapped, abused and stored in crates or sacks in warehouses by middlemen before being trucked into town. The cats are used as a garnish to the dog meat dishes. There is a belief in China that freshness is key to quality (there is no refrigeration) so this is the reason for keeping them alive and suffering so they die just prior to being consumed.
Why are the dog tortured? (Graphic description)
The torture begins with a rough capture and cramped transport conditions, exposed to the elements (no refreshment so they are dehydrated) and the dogs and cats will bite each other if being crushed. No care is taken unloading cages so limbs are shattered. This carelessness is for speed and maximum profit.
Dogs are beaten to the head to render them inactive, some slaughterers are more skilled than others, sometimes it takes many strikes. The throat or chest is cut and the blood is drained, the blood will drain quicker as the heart is still beating. They are thrown into plucking machines with boiling water to spin off the fur, again often at this point the animal is still not dead so effectively they are being boiled alive.
Those vendors without the expensive dog plucking machines will remove fur by either dangling the dog from a hook and skinning them while still warm. Another method is rubbing off the fur after repeatedly dipping them into hot water whilst clamping their necks with long handled metal tongs. Torture is guaranteed for dogs and cats.
Why is eating dog and cat meat so important that it needs a festival?
It is the lychee that is specific to Yulin and it needs promoting. Some bright spark recently decided that the combination of dog and cat meat, lychees along with the wine (both considered warming foods) would be an explosive combination to promote good health. Within a few months this folklore was touted as an ancient tradition.
Many people world-wide love any excuse for a party or festival where crowds gather. It is a great opportunity to network and make new friends and business colleagues. This 'event' has been heavily promoted as having a wonderful atmosphere where the streets are carpeted in red lychee skins and colorful canopies.
The drink is a local specially produced lychee wine and the food is recommended as health-giving. The businesses have hyped up this event to bring people into Yulin under the guise of this magical festival improving their blood flow (fertility and keeping warm in winter) if consumed at Summer Solstice. Yulin businesses make a lot of money from this festival, so they are of course reluctant to bring it to an end.
Is rabies a problem?
Yulin has been highlighted as having a higher than average proportion of rabies than any other regions. Dogs being transported into Yulin without quarantine certificates are a worry as they can spread disease to local dogs. Dog meat traders are at the greatest risk of contracting rabies; being bitten while handling the dogs. Rabies is cooked out of meat but the poor hygiene practices in Yulin means that live dogs are in close proximity to cooked meat. Parasites, toxins and viruses in the food chain are more alarming in the 'meat' of dogs and cats.
Is eating diseased dog meat harmful?
Doctors in Vietnam are coming forward with recent studies about parasitic worms common in dog and cat meat causing long term gastrointestinal problems. Concerns have been raised about the Sars virus originating from birds, this could get carried to humans who eat cat meat and now we learn that bats (eaten by cats) are carriers of Ebola. It is widely recognised that carnivores are dangerous in the human food chain due to biomagnification and the build up of toxic metals that cannot be cooked out.
Understandably the dogs are under immense stress throughout their ordeal and their bodies will produce abnormal levels of the stress hormone called Cortisol. This hormone also can not be cooked out so consumption of the dogs meat will lead to unsafe levels of cortisol entering the human body. The side affects of this hormone are; cardiac problems, impotency and general fatigue. The very same symptoms the dog meat is promoted to help.
Do the government condone this?
The Yulin Government deny existence of 'the Yulin Festival' as we call it. For 2014 they took the following steps to appease the growing number of complaints:
- Restaurants were asked to cover over signage advertising dog meat for sale during June.
- Restaurants were asked to all display posters reminding consumers to take care when dining publicly and to be aware of the origin of what you eat.
- Doctors and food safety staff in Yulin were told not to eat dog meat during June.
When did the festival originate?
The huge festival as we know it was heavily promoted in 2010 by media as being good for health. The region is famous for growing lychee. Businessmen promoted dog meat and lychee as warming foods that compliment each other and health properties were promoted.
Are there Chinese activists helping?
There are thousands of animal loving activists all over China posting pictures and making statements on social media condemning the Yulin Festival. A few activists who are media savvy, travel to Yulin to try to protest there and get footage to bring further public outrage to the festival. However activism is made hard by businesses feeling threatened and the town filling up with so many people wanting to participate in the festival.
Do we have any hope of stopping the festival?
With enough people plausibly speaking out against this festival and exposing the cruelty, sadness of those with missing pets and the corruption of officials and businessmen putting health at risk for profits is pushing a ban in the right direction. We are hopeful that the Chinese Government will feel pressure from other governments, media, celebrities and the world's public and will intervene to appease the rest of the world.
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