Yulin Dog Meat Festival: The “Made in China” Ritual that the World Really Needs to Boycott


Yulin Dog Meat Festival: The “Made in China” Ritual that the World Really Needs to Boycott

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

In Yulin, a city in South West China, the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival has commenced. Eating dog meat is traditional in China, but the festival itself has only been around since 2009. Every year since then, images of frightened dogs shoved into cages, being cruelly slaughtered, and butchered at meat shops have flooded the internet, bringing the Yulin Dog Meat Festival infamy across the world. This year, the festival is being held for another time, even against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic forcing the Chinese to re-evaluate the country’s appetite for eating animals that are not considered livestock in other parts of the globe.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to reforms from China’s authorities, including its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. In February, the Chinese government imposed a ban on the sale and consumption of wild animals such as bats and snakes, citing health concerns. The same consideration could be extended to the consumption of dog meat as well, since the World Health Organisation has declared it could be a source of rabies and cholera.

Soon after, in April, the city of Shenzhen led the way in reclassifying dogs as pets and not livestock by banning the consumption of dogs. Three weeks ago, the Chinese agriculture ministry made it official by declaring that dogs are companions and not livestock for eating.

Despite these changes, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival is still being held this year. However, reports have indicated that support for the festival is dwindling, and that this is an indicator that the Yulin Dog Meat Festival may no longer be held in coming years. Dr Peter Li, a policy specialist for the animal protection group Humane Society International, was quoted as saying, “The Yulin festival is a bloody spectacle that does not reflect the mood or eating habits of the majority of the Chinese people, and its continuation flouts the sentiment expressed by the Ministry of Agriculture… It is time for Yulin’s dog slaughterhouses to lay down the butcher’s knife, and consign the festival to the history books.”

There’s not many nice things to say about the coronavirus pandemic, but if it leads to a reduced demand for exotic meats in China, and eventually the cancellation of events like the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, at least animal rights activists will have something positive by which to remember it.