“I see humans but no humanity.”
I first came to know about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival back in early 2018.
It’s a festival that is held every year in June, for 10 days, in Yulin, Guangxi China where locals and foreigners (tourists) gather to celebrate the summer solstice by drinking Lychee wine and feasting on the dead bodies of tortured dogs.
This so-called festival is portrayed in many of the atrocious, graphic images/videos of dogs that have flooded the internet since its inception in 2010.
The festival as I also discovered is not rooted in any sort of Chinese tradition and was borne out of a purely commercial endeavour to boost waning dog meat sales and the local economy.
To make matters worse, the Yulin Festival is but the tip of the iceberg to a much larger, broader issue called the dog and cat meat trade (DCMT), a trade that takes the lives of an estimated 30 million dogs and 10 million cats every year in South East Asia.
The Stop Yulin Podcast
Hungry to learn more about this issue, I looked and searched everywhere for some reliable, accurate source of information on the topic but the results fell flat. I wanted to understand the problem better, to uncover the potential solutions /strategies and the ways I could be of concrete help to these dogs and cats.
In an epiphany, I decided to create a podcast on the topic that would be both educational and insightful. A podcast seemed like the perfect medium to bring together the many interventionists and leaders of NGOs working on the ground, to share their experience and knowledge so that we, the viewers, could be more effective and successful advocates for the cause.
The Stop Yulin podcast officially launched on October 11th 2019 with its 1st episode featuring award winning filmmaker, Andy Abrahams Wilson, for the upcoming film Dog War, which tells the story of the brutal South Korean dog meat farms.
Guests to date include the following non-profits Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation represented by: Dr. Barbara Jennifer Gitlitz, Suki Su, Vincent Sena, Soi Dog Foundation, Vanderpump Dog Foundation, WUFAW, No Dogs Left Behind, Animals Asia, CFAF, The Sound of Animals, Rushton Dog Rescue, James Tsai of Arf Arf Bark Bark Foundation, Dr. Peter J. Li – PhD, HSI’s China policy specialist, K9 Global Rescue, Save Korean Dogs, Animal Liberation Wave and many more to come. The podcast will also feature guests that are activists, volunteers, adoptive families of survivors of the trade and eventually broaden its scope to tackle other and equally important animal welfare issues.
The podcast has proven to be an invaluable learning tool for myself and others in the community. What follows is a brief summary of these discoveries.
The Asian DCMT
The dog and cat meat trade (DCMT) spans all across Asia Pacific with the greatest numbers registered in China, Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia and Cambodia.
South Korea is the only country in the world that has industrial dog meat farms, where dogs are systematically bred for slaughter. The dogs are kept in elevated wire cages with no flooring on which to rest which often results in them developing acute painful sores on their paws. They are exposed to the elements and extreme temperatures of the summer and winter, without access to water, are fed garbage waste and the ground up bodies of other dogs that did not survive long enough to be slaughtered. There are an estimated 20,000 dog farms in S. Korea, everything from large scale operations, housing thousands of dogs, to small backyard farms with 20 to a hundred dogs.
In China and the rest of Asia, dogs and cats are routinely snatched off the streets, many are stolen pets, and are transported onto overcrowded trucks, crammed together so tightly that their limbs often break, with no food or water for days…many die of dehydration, heat stroke, starvation, shock and disease before they reach their final destination. For those who survive the trip, they end up in filthy slaughterhouses where they are brutally tortured in front of one another.
In North Sulawesi, Indonesia, there is an extreme animal market called Tomohon where dogs are bludgeoned and blow-torched alive in full public view. Incredibly, this extreme market was actually touted as a top tourist destination on TripAdvisor! Dog Meat Free Indonesia, a coalition of six animal welfare groups, has been lobbying the government for years to shut down this extreme market and many others like it.
The trade is not regulated, as dogs and cats are not considered livestock in most countries, therefore there is no statute governing the transport, breeding and slaughtering process. This creates an environment that is riddled with crime, violence, and health risks such as rabies, and the spread of other viral, often deadly, diseases for the workers engaged in the trade as well as the end consumer. The World Health Organisation has issued a statement that the trade, slaughter and consumption of dogs poses human health risks from trichinosis, cholera and rabies.
Photo released by Dog Meat Free Indonesia - Dogs wait in cages outside the Tomohon traditional market, in north Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Another problem in China and in most of South East Asia is the absence of any animal welfare/protection laws. With no legal ramifications in place, the extreme acts of violence that these dogs are subjected to, go unpunished. I specify “dogs” because although all of these countries have a conventional meat trade – farming practices that closely resemble our own here in the west – dogs, in particular, suffer a worst fate due to the misguided belief that the more pain and suffering the dog endures prior to death, the greater the medicinal properties of the meat, including better stamina and increased virility in men. In traditional Eastern medicine it is a common prescription for anyone whose health is waning, to eat dog meat to balance the qi, or the vital energy of the body.
So how prevalent is dog meat in Asia? It depends on the country but overall, it is limited to a small percentage. For a country like China with a population size of 1.4 billion, it is relatively small. That being said, there are countless restaurants across the country serving dog meat, even in big cities like Beijing. The same can be said for South Korea but dog meat is much more common in a country like Cambodia.
I am often left pondering how and why this trade persists in modern times given the fact that it is upheld by a fringe of the population. However the answer is not straight forward and varies per country. A common argument is that dog meat is part of their local cuisine and their culture. But what is culture? It is the transmission of learned habits, behaviour and beliefs that are passed on from one generation to the next. Culture is fluid and ever-evolving and should adapt to the times. Culture should never be used as an excuse to abuse and torture a living, breathing being.
Luckily there is hope on the horizon. Dog meat has been banned in many parts of Asia including: Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore; Most recently, Governor Ganjar Pranowo of central Java, Indonesia pledged to support a ban on dog meat in their goal to eradicate human rabies by 2021.
There are also a growing number of local activists that are fighting for the end of this cruel trade and they are supported by international NGOs who share the same vision and goal.
Many charities such as Animals Asia, Duo Duo Project, ACTAsia have established educational programs in China aimed at teaching responsible pet ownership, good animal welfare practices, and fostering compassion for all sentient beings, including our animal friends. These programs are going a long way in changing the public’s perception of dogs and helping foster positive relationships between humans and animals.
Will We Ever See An End?
That is one of the recurring questions for guests on my podcast. The answer is usually a mix between optimism and realism.
One thing most of my guests have agreed on is that this trade is slowly dying. It is upheld by the older generation for whom dog meat is entrenched in their beliefs, traditions and habits.
Progress is being made, slowly but surely. The novel coronavirus pandemic has certainly been a wake-up call on the consequences of our exploitive, abusive relationship with animals and a catalyst for positive changes in China. Shenzhen and Zhuhai became the 1st two cities in China to put a ban on the DCMT and wild life trade. This is an historical landmark decision and we remain hopeful that others will follow suit.
“Time Brings All Things To Pass.” – Aeschylus.
An old saying by ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus takes on its full meaning here.
Indeed, time is needed to shift public perceptions, to create new mindsets, to introduce and enact legislation for animal protection, for change to take root and blossom in the minds and hearts of every individual who inhabits this earth.
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For news and updates on the dog -cat meat trade, follow Jade Ara on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/161093658065640/
Jade Ara is a devout animal lover and vegan activist for animal rights. Jade is a volunteer and supporter of HSI Canada and the Montreal SPCA. She is dedicated to ending the dog and cat meat trade in Asia and continues to fight for many other animal welfare issues, including the fur industry, animal testing, wildlife in captivity and many more. She lives with her husband Danny and their two cats, Dusky and Misty, in the suburbs of Montreal.