Tradition or Abuse? Chinese Views on the Yulin Dog Meat Festival

The start of the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival has made global headlines, with international celebrities and politicians condemning the event. The tradition has mainly sparked outrage outside of China, but what is the general view on the dog meat festival within the PRC?

The controversial annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival (玉林狗肉节) has started in the southwestern Chinese province of Guangxi, despite loud voices protesting its takeoff this year. The festival, that is now internationally condemned by celebrities and politicians, draws mixed reactions on Chinese social media platforms.

 

A MORAL AND LEGAL ISSUE

“Is this even legal? That’s the question.”

 

Although many dog lovers and animal welfare campaigners from around the world call on the Chinese government to stop the festival and its dog meat industry, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying recently clarified that the Yulin government has never supported or organized the festival.

The event, that is locally organized by city residents, starts from June 21st every year and has been drawing controversy since 2010. The recurring festival celebrates the summer solstice by eating lychees and dog meat. An abundance of food stalls in Yulin sell dog meat specialties throughout the event, that allegedly is a long-standing local tradition. It is estimated that around 10.000 dogs are slaughtered during the ten-day festival (Yan 2015, 46).

Is this even legal? That’s the question. China has no law that bans the eating of dogs; eating dog meat is a personal freedom. This suggests that the controversy over the Yulin event is purely moral and not legal.

But what makes the issue murky and extra troublesome for dog lovers and animal welfare campaigners is that China actually has no legal dog farms, nor legal dog slaughter houses. It is therefore not clear where the Yulin festival dogs come from. Are they stray dogs? Are they “victims of dognapping”? And if so, would this not be considered illegal (Cao 2014; Yan 2015, 46)?

It is these questions, and the persisting reports of animal cruelty during the event, that have made Yulin’s Dog Meat festival extremely controversial – not just internationally, but also within China, where more and more people are now denouncing the annual dog-meat-fest.

 

MORE RESOLUTE OPPONENTS

“62% of Chinese surveyees think the dog meat festival harms China’s international reputation”

 

Over recent years, it seems that the Yulin Dog Meat Festival has grown more resolute opponents than enthusiastic supporters within mainland China.

A recent opinion poll revealed that 64% of Chinese now oppose the festival. The survey was conducted by Beijing Horizon Key (北京零点指标信息咨询有限公司) and was held amongst 2000 people in the 16-50 age category from 1000 different cities, 500 counties and 500 villages (Jiemian 2016).

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Image shared on Weibo: “Yulin Dog Meat Festival: should we eat dog meat?”

The survey also revealed that 62% of Chinese surveyees think the dog meat festival harms China’s international reputation, and that 51.7% of the people feel that the Chinese dog meat industry should be banned altogether. 69.5% of the surveyed claimed they had never eaten dog meat in their life.

 

HYPOCRITICAL ACTIVISTS

“Yulin’s dog meat should be made into a brand and be widely promoted.”

 

Yet there are also those who are still strongly in favor of the festival. In the Beijing Review (2015), Hu Jianbing of rednet.cn suggests that it is hypocritical to denounce the eating of dog meat when there are so many other animals that are being eaten. Why would the consumption of dog meat be more “horrific” or “disgusting”? Hu says that the festival should go on, as long as there are no illegal abductions of dogs:

“The festival should be continued and could be further developed into a big business. Yulin’s dog meat should be made into a brand and be widely promoted.”

On Sina Weibo, there are also people praising dog meat for its taste and disagreeing with the Yulin protesters. By now, the Yulin dog meat festival has become a much-discussed issue, especially in light of the international condemnation for it.

 

MIXED REACTIONS

“My family also raises dogs, and we will always kill and eat them after raising them for years.”

 

Chinese netizens vehemently discuss the dog meat festival on Weibo under the hashtags of ‘Yulin Dog Meat Festival’ (#玉林狗肉节#), ‘Who Advocates the Dog Meat Festival?’ (#谁是玉林狗肉节推手#), the popular hashtag ‘Boycott the Yulin Dog Festival’ (#抵制玉林狗肉节#), and others. The topic has received thousands of comments, with many people venting their thoughts on their own Weibo pages or commenting under Yulin-related news articles.

The discussion draws many mixed reactions, because many netizens disagree on what the focus issue actually is. Is it about whether or not people should eat dog meat? Is it about preserving local traditions? Is it about animal welfare laws in China? Or is this about Western media condemning Chinese traditions? On Chinese social media, it is about all of those things, with different people viewing the issue from different angles.

One netizen writes: “I have seen so many posts about this, here’s my two cents: my family also often raises dogs (to protect the home), and we will always kill and eat them after raising them for years, because they’ve become old and useless. It would be a pity to bury it, especially because we can’t afford to eat dog meat very often. My dad likes to eat it, I don’t really. But I would never object to my dad eating dog meat. Ever since the Dog Meat Festival, I’ve begun to detest the behavior of all those activists. At this year’s summer solstice I’ll also eat a few pieces of dog meat!”

 

THE CORE OF THE ISSUE

“Eating dog meat is okay, animal cruelty is not.”

 

Many netizens emphasize that they feel it is not right to eat dogs because of their relation to humans: “It is true that we are carnivores,” another Weibo user comments: “But since ancient times, we’ve had a special connection to dogs. Every time I see people eating dog meat or hear them justifying it, it disgusts me!”

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Yulin Dog Meat Festival opponents post campaign posters on Chinese social media.

But not all netizens understand what the fuss is about: “China is so big and powerful, and yet some little dogs draw international attention. In Africa, people are starving to death yet nobody cares. In Syria there are so many refugees that people don’t care about. The Western world..” one netizen says.

“Every year it’s the same battle and I am sick of this issue. I try to avoid all news related to it, but I can no longer stand those of you morons who say ‘well don’t you also eat pork and cows?’ – screw you! We raise dogs and take them into our homes like friends, we take care of them with medicine and injections when they are sick. Do you take your cattle into your house like friends? If not, then you have nothing to say!” one Tianjin netizen writes.

There are also many netizens who share shocking pictures and videos of dogs being cruelly killed for their meat. Virtually all netizens respond to these images in shock: “Human nature is so low, it makes my hair stand on end. Society is evil.”

In the end, the Yulin dog meat festival discussion is genuinely multifaceted. As long as eating dog meat is not banned in China, eating dogs will remain a personal and legal choice. Perhaps the question of whether or not dog meat should be allowed is not at the core of the issue, nor is the question whether or not Yulin’s dog festival is tradition or abuse. The many videos, pictures, and online documentaries show that the Yulin festival is a tradition that undeniably involves animal abuse. It is therefore both a tradition and abuse.

Most Chinese netizens seem to agree that what should be tackled first is not necessarily the tradition of eating dog meat itself, but the abuse that comes with it. As one netizen puts it: “Eating dog meat is okay, animal cruelty is not.”

– By Manya Koetse

References

Cao Yin. 2014. “Experts: Dog Meat Festival ‘Illegal’.” China Daily (June 16). Online at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-06/16/content_17589087.htm [6.23.16].

Luan Xiang 栾翔. 2016. “调查显示六成民众呼吁取缔玉林狗肉节 官方称从未组织 [Poll Shows 60% of People Oppose the Yulin Dog Meat Festival – Government States They Do Not Organize It]” . Jiemian 界面 (June 20). Online at http://www.jiemian.com/article/704030.html [6.23.16].

Yan Wei. 2015. “Dog Meat Festival: Traditional Custom or Abuse?” Beijing Review (29): 46-47.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Author

About the author: Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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24 comments

Red meat gives humans rectal cancer in the long run! I hope Karma gives these dog and cat eaters a lot! Torture before killing a being is evil! Do you do that to a fetus before you eat it? Do you beat up the mom to make it taste better? I’ll bet you don’t! You’re evil beings! May karma curse you!

well that was disappointing as hell, but glad to know that we all agree on one thing, the brutality and cruelty that is used on these dogs, Id like to see them watch how these dogs are tortured, skinned and cooked alive, then tell me how great dog meat taste….
to mention Africa is ridicules, how does India live as vegetarians…they farm their food and grains, Africa also has access to many wild life animals for food, the wild boars are out of control all over the world, even the refugees eating the wild boars might help keep the population down and keep them out of the crops they destroy, deer population also out of control, have you ever watched “the great migration”? were talking so many wilde beast are killed, from trying to cross a couple croc infested rivers, OH WAIT, CROCS probably eat better then the africans and refugees, and crocs are edible, wilde beast are edible, anything deer related, antelope , elk, moose, and many others edible, birds are edible, and tell me again….WHY are people starving????
during extreme droughts, fish literally die from lack of water, I understand that it would be difficult to grow crops because lack of water, what it takes to raise live stock for meat, would be more useful to utilize the grains used to feed the live stock, these grains can last much longer on a shelf then meat would… I myself have turned towards vegetarian, I also grow, can, dehydrate many of my own vegatables…the US throws away and waste more food, then necessary. ..and then the Africans poach Elephants and Rhino, wild cats to near extinction, for the Chinese of course…and leave the remains to rot in the sun, or for other animals to eat…then turn around crying their starving.

The Yulin Dog Festival should be banned, these people…if you want to call them that…. are barbaric they torture these animals skinning and boiling them alive, muzzling them and chopping their paws off, what do they say ” the more pain the animal is in the better the meat tastes” WELL SORRY THIS IS JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE. #StopYulinforever🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾

I don’t give a flying fuck if it is culturally insensitive. I am a mental health provider and I ALWAYS have to be culturally mindful. This is NOT about attacking one’s culture. I would say the same if other countries display this type of barbaric torture towards animals. And I am sick to death of people posting “what is the difference between dogs and cows?”, it is not the kind of animal that is being eaten. It is the philosophy of inflicting severe torture to animals to “tenderize the meat” and for “strength and fertility” purposes. This kind of torture and pain that is inflicted is pure evil and wrong and simply states that this “culture” lacks compassion. It is wrong and these people need to be educated. And lastly, the bulk of the dogs and cats consumed are stolen pets with collars. This also states that these people do not care about the morality of where their meat comes from and proceeds to slaughter stolen pets instead of letting them go to return to their owners. They can complain about their moods being spoiled but what about the pain that these innocent animals endure? Therefore, my final words.. Culturally insensitive, my ass, go choke on a bone!

THIS IS ANIMAL CRUELTY!!!! TAKE THESE BARBARIC PEOPLE SKIN THEM ALIVE THEN COOK THEM!!! THAT IS WHY I STOPPED EATING CHINESE FOOD I DONT WHAT I AM EATING AND I DONT BUY ANY TREATS FOR MY PETS MADE IN CHINA!!! What’s next they gonna start eating they’re own children?

Would you slowly torture a person if it made them taste better? How can you think this way? You are evil and you use and abuse but give nothing back. You should never be near an animal. They are too good for you. You need to feel the pain that these animals feel. You are cowards!!!!!!!!

Yu Lin dog meat festivil is not merely personal choice or traditions, but it is an organized marketing behavior. The maority of dogs are napped and shipped to Yulin, most are pets or stay dogs. The whole procudure of the business covers criminal and illegal activities. To say this is merely traditions and personal behavior is actually escape the responsibility of bureaucracy. It is very desappointing the government made this annoucing. It is an insult the Chinese and the culture to let this inhumane “festivil” exsit and even justify for it.

These poor dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are brutally tortured to death. They are companion animals and just want our love and attention. The Yulin dog and cat meat eating festival is absolutely horrific. The pain and suffering these animals endure is beyond our comprehension. The torturers are SAVAGES… they even eat dogs alive. Saying that, in Iraq the Kurds eat puppies alive and rip their poor little bodies apart. It sickens me that in this day and age, billions of animals, birds, insects, sealife and reptiles are tortured to death. ROT IN HELL the lot of you SADISTIC, EVIL savages.

They say that Yulin dog meat festival is a tradition.In ancient years people in the Colosseum (Rome -Italy)gladiators used to combat with wild and hungry animals.Nowadays this has stopped because people realised that this was inhumane.Torturing and killing an animal in this barbaric state is inhumane.We are human beings and we must have feelings.A man without feelings at all is a monster.We need more people like Marc Ching .He saved 1000 dogs from dog meat festival.He deserves a nobel price for doing such a thing.

The China government is clever. On one hand, they said they have not supported nor organized the festival. (to appease foreigners) Yet at the same time, they continue letting their citizens do whatever they want in regards to holding the festival. Even when tons of complaints about dogs being stolen from home, caught from the streets and even the vast amount of cruelty/torture were involved.

Even the current festival, Marc Ching reported that there were police officers wearing street clothes following him around.

I am very disappointed in the article re: Yulin Festival. There’s hardly any discussion regarding the cruelty involved in butchering the dogs (and cats..no one ever discusses the poor cats! ) alive. Next time around…or even all year long…let’s put a camera inside these houses of horror so all those about to sit down to a doggy feast can see how their dinner was made. The tragedy is that not enough Chinese are bothered by the cruelty: the torching, boiling, skinning and mutilating a living animal is tolerated in their archaic, pagan, society. Just send a couple of Viagra shipments to China! That may end their demand for tiger penises and thirst for tiger wine. Their abuse of bear for bile…and their need for rhino horn for ‘medicinal’ purposes. They must be the horniest men on the planet.

It would be nice if people like Michele could oppose dog meat eating without slipping into racist comments and if people like Mary Johnston would read the article before commenting. Most people in China don’t eat dog meat or condone the festival. It doesn’t make any sense to boycott restaurants in your home country run by Chinese people who have no connection to the Yulin festival.

The very act of the torturing dogs and cats angers people beyond reason, these people who do this are sub-species, why comment on someone showing a distaste towards the chinese weather it is racist or not that is nowhere near as important as the torturing of these beautiful animals!!!!!!!
If we all boycott chinese restaurants maybe then something will be done by their own people??? I see nothing wrong in doing that, what is wrong is the torturing of animals!!!!!!!!!

You are right to say it is the torture of the animals which most offends people outside of China…and it is this savagery that makes many people look down on China for allowing this to continue in 2016. We have cruelty all around the world towards animals, but the extent and the nature of the cruetly involved in the dog meat trade is not defendable under the name of history, culture, diet, need.

I am totally against this Festival. Because in the way they celebrating it’s out of humanity. Such festival should be banned. Many animal lovers and organisations like vanderpumpdogs.org are Uprising this festival. But I am still surprised how their government could not ban such inhumanity festivals there.

The dog meat torture is so extreme that most people do not ever watch it, because the videos do not get circulated. On a daily basis, i see new videos of dogs in China being boiled alive, thrashing about and screaming in agony, or dogs hanged and blow torched alive while they scream, or having their skin peeled off as they kick and scream, or have their paws chopped off and eaten while the dog is left alive to suffer. This is torture that you would find in Saw movies. To support the Yulin festival in any way makes you the scum of the Earth. The problem is NOT eating dog meat necessarily. It is TORTURING dogs. And harming peaceful protestors by dumping boiling water on them or kidnapping them. Reading this article, i expected the number of people against this to be in the 90th percentile. China is a disgusting place.

People will call protestors “hypocrites” for eating beef and pork while being against dog meat in China. As a vegan myself, i get to say that’s a complete false equivalency. I cannot watch a family pet, writhing in agony and screaming desperately, as it is forced down in a pot of boiling water, and think that people who eat cows are just as bad. It is no contest. Where in civilized countries, we strive to kill animals quickly and somewhat “humanely”, China strives to inflict as much pain as possible. The only time they actually kill humanely is when they are in a hurry and don’t actually have time to torture the animal.

By the way, it has been proven that lots of leather in the US imported from China is dog leather, labeled as cow leather, and those dogs were boiled and skinned alive. Boiled, and then had their fur scraped off their tender bodies as they were fully conscious, crying out in pain. Any torture you can think of, they have done it already.

As i mentioned, these videos do not circulate, because to share them means losing most of your friends. I lost 75% of my facebook friends for sharing the Yulin Festival and asking others to spread the word. Everyone would rather look the other way, or even become angry at the messenger, rather than at China.

You are exactly correct. I myself am a vegan, yet I always see people attempting to excuse cruelty on the grounds that anyone who protests it is a “hypocrite” – but not only is it false equivalency to liken the torture-consumption of dogs and cats to the consumption of typical livestock animals, but an appeal to hypocrisy is known as a “to quoque” logical fallacy, which says that attempting to point to supposed ‘hypocrisy’ has nothing to do with the current topic but instead points to some other fault as if that excuses the current one.

You know what’s interesting? ‘Hypocrisy’ accusations pretty much never come up with any other cruelty. If we try to save a human life, we’re suddenly not ‘hypocrites’ if we don’t donate to starving children, or don’t adopt a child. We’re not ‘hypocrites’ if drug addicts try to tell youths to stay out of drugs. A suicidal man is not called a ‘hypocrite’ for trying to talk someone else out of jumping off a bridge. Or should he instead say “jump, you coward!” because apparently the worse crime according to these cruelty apologists is to be considered a hypocrite.

But when it comes to animal torture/consumption, it’s really interesting that so many people are bent on excusing it. After all, the apologists are not the ones being tortured or killed, and will look for ways to excuse sadism and gluttony that targets animals.

They are wrong to assume that they are logically or morally right to suggest that no one can condemn a cruelty if they are hypocrites, because that places an emphasis on character imperfection *and* in this case relies on false equivalency, rather than on a position or proposed argument.

Further, another reason many people go with hypocrisy disengagements is because, by suggesting that only vegans can speak out against animal cruelty in the proposal that ‘hypocrisy’ is the worse crime, they are attempting to morally excuse themselves from taking action if they are not vegan. Interestingly, at the same time many people are keen to mock vegans for advocating for animal well-being, yet when it comes to inviting advocacy from non-vegans, many would suddenly shift to the position that “only vegans can rightly advocate for animals, otherwise I would be a hypocrite”.

I’ve found myself having to speak up for non-vegans who want to help animals – but who are wrongly attacked by naysayers and cruelty apologists who’d rather sit around and do nothing but swirl the proverbial wineglass from where they sit comfortably as they portray the advocacy for the well-being of animals as merely ‘hypocrisy’ in their attempts to disarm people from taking compassionate action.

These people are sick what sort of heart do you people have ..i am sick to my stomach. .stop the torture of dogs..ban any every single dog from China. .

WE domesticated dogs to be companions hundreds of years ago. Every single dog breed came from a wolf, we domesticated them and now these barbarians with severe mental illness, to thank them for their loyalty, boil them alive and skin them alive. This is not normal behavior, and it sickens me to the core. How can you watch a screaming animal die and go about your day in celebration, shame on you, I sincerely hope karma finds each and every one of you……….disgusting.

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