Despite widespread condemnation from both domestic and international sources, an annual dog meat festival has begun in the southern Chinese city of Yulin and is expected to draw crowds of people over the next ten days.
Some 11 million signatures were gathered in protest against the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, during which more than 10,000 dogs and cats are expected to be killed and served to paying customers. While the local government has officially distanced itself from the event, very little has been done to bring an end to the festival. Dog meat is widely eaten throughout China, and the practice has existed for more than 500 years. However, critics of the festival say that the animals are killed publically and brutally, often beaten to death or cooked alive, and transported to the city in cramped and unsanitary conditions.
Capital Animal Welfare Association Director Qin Xiaona said of the festival: "It's embarrassing to us that the world wrongly believes that the brutally cruel Yulin festival is part of Chinese culture. It isn't." According to recent news reports, animal rights activists have managed to save a handful of the dogs otherwise destined to be killed and eaten, and there are signs that the festival's popularity is dwindling.
"A Yulin official told us that contrary to what has been reported in some media, dog meat sales have in fact been declining continuously. The authorities seem nervous and are alerting government employees to stay away from the dog meat restaurants," explained Humane Society International China Policy Specialist Peter Li. In surveys undertaken during the lead-up to the festival, 64% of those aged sixteen to fifty supported a complete ban of the event. However, there is still a long way to go before the festival is effectively stopped.