The annual dog meat festival in China’s southwestern city of Yulin in Guangxi province opened on June 21, 2013 amid strong outcry online, with some calling for a boycott of the event.
Weeks before the “food carnival” in which thousands of dogs would be brutally slaughtered to be served in restaurants across the city, some animal rights activists and pet lovers even appealed to the United States White House petition page in a hope to stop the dog eating festivity. The move fell short, failing to get 100,000 signatures, which is the threshold of getting an official response.
Feasting on dog meat is a summer solstice tradition for many residents in this city of six million. Its popularity is best described by a regional proverb— “the smell of dog meat is so strong, even the god won't last for long” . Locals believe the delicacy gives eaters strength and energy.
Efforts to curb the tradition of consuming dog meat have been successful in the past. In 2011, an online campaign forced local government to do away with a 600-year-old tradition of dog meat festival in Jinhua city of China's eastern Zhejiang province.
However, little change seemed to be on the horizon for Yulin. In the city, an estimated 10,000 dogs are killed every year during the festival. That many are beaten to death, frayed and cooked on the spot has galvanized animal protection groups, which reject such a tradition as inhuman and unsafe.
Media reports also said many dogs are strays or abducted from pet owners, and they are usually stored in cramped conditions where diseases can easily spread among dogs.
While a large number of netizens took to the Internet to voice their disgust over the practice, many locals defended their custom and dog-eating culture.
“Eating dog meat is a eating habit in the society, it's not illegal and has nothing to do with morality”, a local was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua.
The intensive bickering online over dog-eating takes place against a backdrop of increasing pet ownership in the country. It also underscores a greater consciousness of animal rights among the general public.
Yang Yiyan lamented on popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo:
We don’t need such a low and despicable local custom and culture! I firmly support the cancellation of Guangxi Yulin [Lizhi dog meat festival] !!
Echoing the same sentiment, Zhang Kexin wrote:
今天，2013年6月21日，广西玉林将举办“荔枝狗肉节”；届时，大批的狗在遭受苦难后将被 “活”杀！成为当地人的美食…；我们做了？我们什么也没有做？ 文明、道德、善良、生命价值观离我们近了？还是远了？ 但是，我们将永远记住——一个杀戮和血腥的日子和一个罪恶的城市！！
Today, June, 21 2013, Yulin of Guangxi will hold the “Lizhi dog meat festival”. Massive numbers of dogs will be tortured and killed by then! They will become local cuisine…; What did we do? We did nothing [to stop it]? Civilization, morality, kindness, value of life, are they closer to us or more further away? But let us remember this–A massacre and bloody day and a sinful city!!!
Meiri Maogou Youyue mourned the dogs that would be killed for the tradition:
June 21, it’s today #Yulin Lizhi Dog meat festival opens today. Thousands of lives will be slaughtered brutally today! The Yulin city without love will be inundated by blood! Yulin’s “good reputation” will be heard across the globe! We will do nothing today but to light candles for thousands of dogs that are killed today.
But Xiaoying Tongxue had a more nuanced view, writing that eating dog meat isn't necessarily wrong, but inhumane slaughter practices are:
I am determined not to eat dog meat, but I will never criticize those who do so, everyone has his or her preferences, as long as you don’t break the law, you can’t say [eating dog meat] is wrong, [I only] hope that the way of slaughtering dogs will be more humane.