Last year it was rumoured that dog psychologist Cesar Millan would be visiting China on his world tour. As viewers of his popular series will know, Millan usually discovers that the master and not the animal itself is the root cause of the dog’s behavioural problems. So it would have been interesting to see how he dealt with Chinese dog owners, many of whom are owning a pet for the first time.
In the end Millan only came to Hong Kong. But if he had ventured further into China he would have wanted to steer clear of Yulin in Guangxi. Dog lovers in this southern city have a different agenda altogether. Forget training the animals; they are more interested in eating them.
Opposition to Yulin’s annual dogmeat festival first stirred on social media platforms a few years ago. But this year the condemnation of the event has risen to a new level, with activists travelling to the city to protest against the slaughter.
Yulin’s dog vendors estimate that as many as 10,000 animals were eaten during the week-long festival on past occasions. But this year sales are down by as much as 90%. One trader told Xinhua that he had only sold three dogs this year, when last year it was 30. “We fear the festival may be shut down soon,” another said.
That looks possible. Three years ago a similar festival in Zhejiang was cancelled and the local government is trying to distance itself from Yulin’s event.
“In recent years, a few people in Yulin would get together on the summer solstice to eat dog meat and lychees, to the extent that it’s gradually become a culinary tradition,” it said in a statement.
“This so-called ‘Summer Solstice Lychee and Dog Meat Festival’ is just something individual businesses and people have come up with, and in fact this holiday doesn’t exist.”
In May, the city government told civil servants and their families not to go to restaurants and street stalls selling dog meat, with officials complaining online that they no longer dared to eat dog in public, according to Legal Evening News. Xinhua has also reported that some residents did their banqueting a week early to avoid activists and journalists.
Scuffles between activists and vendors won’t have helped the event’s prospects; nor nasty scenes on video-sharing website Youku in which a stallholder threatens to slit a dog’s throat if activists don’t pay to save it.
But there were also complaints from festival goers who came to Yulin for canine cuisine, especially that activists were driving up the prices of their meals. (Eating dog during the summer solstice is supposed to ward off illness in winter.)
The People’s Daily seemed to be nudging its readers away from the practice by asking animal lovers to “educate” dogmeat fans about the virtues of animals as pets.
“It might be difficult to draw a universally accepted line as to what animals should be eaten,” the newspaper admitted. “But when there is already a vast variety of meat available, maybe it is time to stop serving dog.”
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