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The Yulin Dog Meat Festival: 10 Views From Chinese Netizens

These are ten different Chinese perspectives on the controversial Yulin Dog Meat Festival.

Manya Koetse

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The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is an annual event that has become more and more controversial, both in China as well as internationally. What are the main views on the controversial dog-eating festival on Chinese social media? Here are 10 opinions and comments from Weibo users.

The annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival (玉林狗肉节) is taking place again this year, starting from June 21. 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 already clarified in 2016 that the Yulin government has never supported nor organized the festival.

The annual event, that celebrates the summer solstice by eating lychees and dog meat, has been drawing controversy since 2010. It is a ten-day festival that is organized by locals. Since China has no law that bans the eating of dogs, the festival itself is not illegal.

Its legal status, however, does not stop the controversy. It is estimated that around 10.000 dogs are slaughtered during the ten-day festival, and Chinese welfare groups gather in Yulin to protest the tradition. In previous years, there have been altercations between stall owners and activists trying to rescue dogs.

This year, it is likely that more clashes will occur. One activist in Yulin told BBC she was prevented by police from entering the market where live dogs presumably were on sale. The night before the festival, China-based Dutch journalist Marcel Vink said on Twitter that he was put out of his Yulin hotel: “Wow, kicked out of my hotel in the night, suddenly no foreigner acceptance, after hours. And all hotels in town suddenly full.”

What do people on Weibo have to say about the festival amidst all the contention? Here are ten different views and comments on the Dog Meat Festival controversy, from ten different Weibo netizens.

 

1. “I oppose the dog meat festival!”

 

Many people on Chinese social media deem the eating of dog meat immoral due to the relationship between humans and dogs, and the role of dogs in human lives.

One message that was copy-pasted and shared by dozens of netizens on Weibo today says:

“I oppose the dog meat festival! I don’t eat dog meat! I would dread eating the dog that has guarded and protected his family for the most part of his life. I would dread eating the playmate of a young child. I would dread eating a retired police dog. I would dread eating the eyes of a blind man.”

Overall, many netizens on Weibo express this sentiment. A young woman from Xinjiang responds:

“Every time I say that I am against eating dog meat, there is always a group of people who will say: ‘Chickens, ducks, fish, and cows are all living animals too, then you shouldn’t eat them either!’ Well, have you ever seen a duck guiding the blind, or a chicken tracking down narcotics? Will a fish come and welcome you when you come home? After an earthquake, whose paws are it that will drag you from underneath the ground? What cow will stay by your side in times of danger? Resist the dog meat festival! It’s okay not to love dogs, but don’t hurt them.”

 

2. “Just a Chinese tradition.”

 

One person writes:

“I find this all [all the controversy] very strange, the Dog Meat Festival is just a tradition. We can’t do this anymore, we can’t do that anymore – what’s actually left of Chinese traditions with thousands of years of history? (..) Look at yourself before judging another.”

This is a sentiment that is expressed by many other people on Weibo. A typical comment says: “I don’t eat dog meat myself, but I do respect other people’s right to eat dog meat.”

 

3. “You’re giving China a hard time.”

 

There are also people who think the protestors do not reflect well on China.

One man from Nanning, Guangxi, writes:

“Even if there is no Dog Meat Festival, there are still dog meat traders. All you pure leftists should stop your useless actions. Those of you scolding Yulin should know that Yulin is a part of Guangxi, and Guangxi is a part of China. If you’re giving Yulin a hard time, you’re giving Guangxi a hard time, you’re giving China a hard time.”

 

4. “What else should we do with unsold dogs on the dog market?”

 

Weibo netizen @sven_shi points out the alleged hypocrisy of the anti-Yulin campaigners when he says:

“If you run into people who want to rescue dogs, you can ask them one thing and they’ll look foolish. What should we do with the dogs on the dog breeding [pet] market that still aren’t sold after six months? The answer, in fact, is really clear: they will be sold for slaughter. The market can’t provide for the dogs that aren’t sold. The Tibetan mastiffs that aren’t sold will go into a dog stew. If the real dog lovers ideally don’t want any dogs to be killed, they should block the door to the dog market, and take home all the dogs that are left over. Because the reason that dogs are killed is in the dog market.”

 

5. “Don’t rob people of their livelihood because of your love for dogs.”

 

A popular blogger from Beijing holds a similar view when he says:

“Since you are animal activists, you should go and buy all living dogs and pay the price for which their meat is sold.”

They continue:

“Those people there make a living by selling dog meat. Does your love for dogs mean that you should rob other people of their livihood? In any way, I won’t go there and buy dog meat, but you also won’t allow other people to buy it. Then go and buy it all yourself!”

 

6. “You shouldn’t blame all Yulin people for this.”

 

Some people who come from Yulin (a city of 6.9 million people) also respond on Weibo. This girl writes:

“As a person from Yulin, I feel innocent. Firstly, because I don’t eat dog meat. Second, because I don’t kill. Third, I am just one small citizen. It’s enough for you to curse the dog meat festival – you shouldn’t curse all people of Yulin. Some of you keyboard warriors are just too vulgar. You are the ones with a problem, even more so than those who eat dog meat!”

 

7. “Don’t force your moral point of view on other people.”

 

Another person from Yulin also comments on Weibo, and says that loving dogs and eating dogs can go together.

“When it comes to the Dog Meat Festival, loving dogs and eating dogs are two separate things. To the dog activists I would like to say: don’t force your moral point of view on other people. I am from Yulin, and I’m also a dog lover. I’ve raised dogs. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like eating dog meat. Mao Zedong said: ‘Only when you eat dog meat will you know how tasty it is.'”

One woman from Guangdong takes a similar stance, but points out that the abuse that often comes with the dog meat market is unacceptable. She says:

“These days on Weibo I’ve seen so many ‘oppose the dog meat festival’ posts. Actually I also love cats, dogs, and animals a lot. But to be honest, I don’t really oppose it. Many people like to eat dog meat and it’s part of the food chain. I can understand it. But I do oppose the stealing of dogs, the abuse of dogs, and other illegal and immoral actions. I despise this behaviour.”

 

8. “I’m going, but I won’t touch any dog meat.”

 

There are also people who say they will visit the festival but not eat dog meat. The Lychee and Dog Meat Festival celebrates the Summer Solstice.

“Today is the Summer Solstice, and the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival. I am meeting up with some friends. We’ll go out to eat some lychees. I won’t touch any dog meat.”

 

9. “Turning this into a special treat day for dogs.”

 

For other people, the Yulin festival is another reason to treat their own dog to snacks today. A female netizen by the name of ‘Flying Lolita‘ writes:

“Since the Yulin dog meat festival has started, I can’t help but notice how fat our own little Harry has become! Haha. I love him. And I just hope you all won’t eat dog meat.”

Many other people also post pictures of them cuddling their own dogs or cats on this day, turning the dog meat festival into a dog-loving day.

 

10. “The festival has become world famous.”

 

Ironically enough, there are also people who think the growing controversy and international attention for the festival is a positive thing. The dog meat festival hardly received any attention before the previous few years. The national focus on Yulin bring many outsiders to the city – some come to eat dog meat, others come to protest it.

As one young netizen from Guangxi says:

“The Lychee & Dog Meat Festival is here. Yesterday on the train, I heard people say: ‘Even foreigners are now coming to Yulin for the dog meat! Never in my life would I’ve imagined that the traditional feast I grew up with would at one time become so world-famous!”

As the ‘world-famous’ Yulin festival has started, so has the turmoil surrounding it. On June 21st around 18.00 Beijing time, some netizens post photos of cars driving around the festival with ‘dog activists belong to an evil cult’ signs, and other photos of people holding up signs to condemn the festival. Despite all the disagreements and different views, one thing is certain: as long as the Yulin festival continues, so will the controversy.

“Resist the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Respect life. Care for animals.”

“Dog activists [dog-loving-people] are an evil cult.”

By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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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, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Eddie wood

    June 22, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    How in the name of God can anyone accept the brutal torture of the dogs and cats that are killed in the most heinous manner, SKINNED ALIVE, BOILED ALIVE, DISMEMBERING OF THEIR LIMBS WHILE ALIVE, BLUDGEON UNTILL THEY ARE SEMI CONSCIOUS AND ALL THIS IS DONE IN FRONT OF OTHER DOGS TO IN STILL ‘SHEER TERROR!’
    How can anyone say this is ok? they are NOT KILLING THEM TO EAT, THEY ARE TORTURING THESE ANIMALS FOR THEIR OWN GRATIFICATION. Thousands of dogs and cats are killed and no way are thousands of people eating them!!! All animals have a nervous system and to know that they are skinned alive is utterly horrific, a dog or cat only wants to give and receive LOVE, AND THESE PEOPLE KILL THEM THIS WAY??? WHY?????

    • Avatar

      Lisa

      January 8, 2019 at 9:04 pm

      It’s not so much the killing and eating moreso than the torture. We kill and eat animals and it’s not up to me what culture likes whatever particular meat they like. That’s not the problem. My problem is the way it’s done. Skinning them alive, holding them in small cages, throwing them in boiling water ALIVE, ignorantly believing that if they’re afraid before death, the meat is more tender. That is FALSE. When an animal is afraid, they release hormones that toughen muscles not soften them, and either way it would not be consistent enough to change the taste or texture of the meat. It is savage. I have nothing against eating the meat. I oppose the torture. No torture of a living thing with feelings and nerve endings should me allowed in the WORLD! It’s called empathy. If we don’t have empathy, we are not human beings!, we are animals! Picture yourself as that dog and what he’s feeling. Have some MERCY

  2. Avatar

    Anna

    June 23, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Ban the torture of cats and dogs! I hope the ones that eat them live to suffer bad luck and contract the worst disease contained within their own chain of relations!

    • Avatar

      tu suying

      June 26, 2017 at 7:41 am

      Hypocrisy:

      I have watched PETA videos of cows and pigs getting slaughters in the US and being torn apart while still being alive, male chicks ground to death, lobsters boiled alive (no from PETA video). Why love one and eat another.

      Bullshit argument from Hypocrites:
      1. Dogs and Cats are more intelligent – Research shows that pigs are as intelligent as dogs.
      2. some are meant for meat and some are for companionship – Hindus consider eating cows as barbaric and yet they are slaughters in millions especially in the west.

      Please don’t shove your morality over others.

      Thank you.

      • Avatar

        nikki

        June 27, 2017 at 10:34 pm

        Okay, but have you ever seen a cow guide the blind? Or heard of a chicken rescue someone from the wreck after a natural disaster? Or a pig fight and help men in war? No I didn’t think so. Everyone knows the meat insutry as a whole is often cruel and horrible. But that does NOT JUSTIFY this cruelty to a species which has saved lives and have ALWAYS been there for humans through good and bad. Why extend the list of animals getting tortured? Shouldn’t we start stopping the cruelty? Then why not start with this? It’s merely a step towards a kinder world.

        • Avatar

          Dan

          July 4, 2018 at 10:47 am

          Stupid comments. “Oh but have you seen a cow guide the blind” … Eye roll. Does if matter?! If you eat cows but oppose dog meat and will condemn dog meat eaters you are a hypocrite and the reason evil thrives.

      • Avatar

        Yulin Is Pure Evil

        April 2, 2018 at 11:25 am

        They’re all evil, cruel and disgusting, you stupid Chinese idiot.

  3. Avatar

    TigerClaw

    June 23, 2017 at 10:36 am

    This is sick …It’s gross I could never eat my pet …Dogs and cats are house animals they are a part of family…This needs to “Stop ” Stop making excuses of how this is a tradition in culture. Dogs are like humans they feel and think like us ….We live in a future here were not living the old ages !!! I respect every culture but not when it comes to eating a dog or cat or brutally killing them it’s disgusting. These people have no souls they have no feelings …They need education .

  4. Avatar

    TigerClaw

    June 23, 2017 at 10:55 am

    We all come from different cultures and we all have a tradition…But there’s a limit to everything …Some animals are not ment to be eaten, chicken and fish is not a dog or a cat …These animals are a lovable pets specially dogs they are very loyal to their human companions , they love you til the day you die…How dare you hear the cries of these sweet animals how can you bare it listening to their cries when they are being tortured alive…This is barbaric it’s disturbing. I read these articles and I can’t stop balling my eyes out . THIS NEEDS TO END NOW “STOP” KILLING DOGS AND CAT FOR GODDESS SAKE.!!!????????????????????

    • Avatar

      Dan

      July 4, 2018 at 10:53 am

      “Some animals are not meant to be eaten” I hope you realize one day that you are the reason this happens. That mentality of well some are okay to eat but some aren’t. Don’t you realize you are part of a whole group that eats animals, whether it is a dog or cat or chicken, it is wrong. And the Chinese will NEVER stop eating dogs until you stop eating chickens.

  5. Avatar

    Kelly Schadt-Kelly

    June 23, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I cannot understand the killing of dogs for the purpose of eating. I love my pet dog and could never sell her or have her slaughtered for meat. However, I do not oppose the act of consuming any animal for food. From what I understand, some cultures value cows, but I love beef hamburgers and steaks. I don’t see them picketing my local grocery for selling beef flank steaks! Still, the abuse of any animal before slaughter is horrendous! Why torture? In front of other animals? If it is truly for meat, the release of adrenaline ruins the taste of meat! Dumbass slaughters! No animal should be tortured, stolen, and brutalized before death for the pleasure of a crowd!

  6. Avatar

    Nikki

    June 27, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    To the people who say: “But you all probably eat other animals, that are also killed horribly, why is that okay? Blah, blah” I’m sure everyone knows that other animals are also killed. Yes, we know farm animals are often treated like shit. And yes many people do eat meat and still oppose dog meat. Why? Because dogs are NOT farm animals! “But everyone has different cultures and we eat animals that other cultures consdier saint”. Yea, but who says I agree with the meat industry as a whole? I myself don’t eat much meat, and try to buy from companies which have shown video footage of better care for their livestock. Besides, dogs have been a COMPANION animal for humans since the beginning of time. Look at all they’ve done for us! Guide the visually impaired, search and rescue, police work (locating drugs and bombs and helping officers catch criminals), therapy dogs who help patients with anxiety/depression or other disorders, helping men in war, protecting our homes, herding livestock or simply being SOMEONE’S BEST FRIEND. Have you ever seen a sheep or a cow do all that? No. I’m not saying I agree with how the meat industry treats them. But don’t use their suffering to justify this horrible cruelty. Why extend the number of animals getting toruted? Why not work towards kindness? And dogs sure as hell deserve better than this.

    • Avatar

      Yulin Is Pure Evil

      April 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

      They are ALL vile. Any cruelty to animals is wrong. You can’t say farm animals deserve it slightly more because they’re less intelligent, you’re being almost as bad as the Chinese. Think about it.

  7. Avatar

    lola

    July 23, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    For me it’s totally fine to kill dogs and eat them since everyone kills the cows/chicken and fish in a PAINFUL way and NO ONE CARES, Kill them all so people can stop being such HYPOCRITE

    • Avatar

      Yulin Is Pure Evil

      April 2, 2018 at 11:22 am

      Wow, you would let innocent animals suffer when they have NOTHING to do with the barbaric practises that go on world wide to other animals just to make a point. You obviously don’t care about animals at all and are like these evil people. You are disgusting.

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China Food & Drinks

This Is the BBQ Restaurant Jack Ma Visited in Zhengzhou

Jack Ma’s late-night snack means overnight success for this Zhengzhou skewer place.

Manya Koetse

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Whatever Jack Ma does or says makes headlines in China. The superstar Alibaba founder has especially been a topic of discussion over the past week since his meeting with Tesla’s Elon Musk at the World AI Conference in Shanghai, where the two billionaires had a discussion about the risks and rewards of AI development.

But on social media platform Weibo, Chinese netizens have not just been discussing what Jack Ma has been saying over the past few days – what he has been eating has also become a topic that has attracted thousands of views and comments this week.

A BBQ skewer restaurant in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, gained overnight fame after a visit from the business magnate and his group. The Alibaba delegation visited Zhengzhou for a meeting concerning a strategic partnership between Alibaba and the local government.

Jack Ma visited the barbecue skewer restaurant around one o’clock in the morning, and was photographed and filmed by many people standing around.

Ma visited Dehua Pedestrian Street and Zhengdong New Area before arriving at the Zheng Xiwang restaurant. Ma was with a small group of people and spent a total of 700 yuan (around 100 US dollars).

Grilled skewers are popular all across China, but especially in the Zhengzhou region, which is also nicknamed the “holy land of skewers.”

Image via Dianping.com.

The Zheng Xiwang restaurant visited by Ma was founded in 1991 – although it was just a street stall at the time – and has been thriving ever since.

Besides skewers, Jack Ma allegedly ordered stir-fried Hunan prawns and spicy clams.

As Ma’s visit to Zhengzhou and the restaurant has gone viral, some social media users write that they have also visited the restaurant immediately after, sharing photos and their receipts as proof.

Weibo user Jia Chengjun (@贾成军) from Henan shared photos of people lining up to get a table at the popular restaurant.

According to various reports on Weibo, the restaurant’s owner initially offered Jack Ma the dinner for free, but the billionaire refused and paid anyway. His payment method will not come as a surprise; he paid with Alibaba’s online payment platform Alipay.

“Why would you offer him a free meal anyway?” some netizens wondered: “He surely has more money than you!”

Curious to try the same food as Ma? Zheng Xi Wang is located at the intersection of Fuyuan Street and Yingxie Street in Zhengzhou (福元路与英协路交叉口向西160米路北(银基王朝南门)).

By Manya Koetse

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©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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Backgrounder

“Opposing Dog Meat Consumption Is Hypocritical” – Weibo Discussions on Anti-Dog Meat Protests

Eating dog meat is a personal choice, many commenters argue.

Manya Koetse

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Gaegogi (dog meat) stew served at a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea, by Rhett Sutphin.

Last week’s anti-dog meat protests in South Korea have triggered discussions on Chinese social media on the status quo of the dog meat industry in China. An overview of the sentiments on social media and the background of dog eating in the PRC.

South Korea’s dog meat industry made headlines on Friday after protesters in Seoul, joined by actress Kim Basinger, called for an end to the decade-old dog meat trade in the country.

Not far from the protesters were farmers who raise dogs that are sold to restaurants. They brought steamed dog meat and ate it with kimchi.

In China, where the eating of dog meat has a long history, the Seoul protests triggered some discussions on social media.

The hashtags “Hundred People Gather in South Korea to Stop the Eating of Dog Meat” (#韩国百人集会呼吁停食狗肉#) and “Big Protest in South Korea against Eating of Dog Meat” (#韩国大规模抗议吃狗肉#) received over 83 million views.

In South Korea, the overall demand for dog meat has plummeted over the years. Earlier this month, one of the largest dog meat markets in the country, the Gupo dog meat market, was shut down. In November of 2018, Seongnam city already demolished South Korea’s largest dog slaughterhouse.

Friday’s protesters hope to shut down dog meat trade in the country completely. The latest protests have put the thorny issue of the dog meat industry back in the limelight.

 

HYPOCRITICAL PROTESTS?

“I don’t eat dog meat, but I don’t oppose it.”

 

On Chinese social media site Weibo, hundreds of netizens expressed their opinion on the matter, that has been a hot topic in China for years.

According to polls from the past and present, the topic of dog meat in China is clearly a divisive one.

But over the past few days a seeming majority of commenters on Weibo spoke out about the issue in a remarkably similar way, with thousands of netizens highlighting one issue in the matter: hypocrisy.

“I won’t oppose to the eating of dog meat,” one person writes: “Because if I support the anti-dog meat movement today, then tomorrow it will turn against the eating of cows, then the eating of pigs, and then the eating of fish..”

Many people on social media agree with this point of view, arguing that no matter one’s personal ideas about dog meat, condemning the dog meat practice in specific would be hypocritical: “Pigs are so cute, why do we eat pigs then?” many say, with others arguing: “Aren’t cows also spiritual animals?”

Dog meat restaurant in Jilin.

“I also raise dogs, I also love dogs,” another commenter says: “But I think that if they legally breed dogs for the dog meat [industry], then we have no right to prevent them from doing so.”

“I don’t eat dog meat, but I don’t oppose it, as long as it’s legal it’s ok,” with others writing: “I am opposed to the eating of any living creature.”

“Eating dog is not illegal, why all this sentimental nonsense? Why don’t you also defend chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, sheep, and cows?!”

“As long as they’re not abused, I don’t see a problem with it.”

“Dog meat is tasty,” one commenter from Zhejiang writes: “I like it, although I rarely eat it. I don’t see a problem with it, it’s a personal choice.”

 

SHORT OVERVIEW OF DOG EATING IN CHINA

“To them, dog meat was just like any other meat.”

 

The tradition of dog eating in China can be traced back as far as the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1558 to 1046 BC), when dog meat was considered a delicacy for the upper class.

Later on in Chinese history, during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), it became more and more common until the practice saw a general decline, especially in northern China, during and after the tenth century (Li et al 2017, 513-514).

Despite the rising and declining popularity of dog meat throughout China’s history, the practice of eating dog has never completely disappeared, particularly in southern China.

In a book on China from 1878 by John Henry Gray, the author notes the popularity of restaurants serving dog and cat meat in ‘Canton’ (Guangzhou):

I do not think (..) that I exaggerate in saying that there are no fewer than twenty such places in Canton. Each restaurant contains only one public apartment. The approach to this dining-room is generally through the kitchen, where cooks may be seen standing in front of slow fires over which the flesh of cats and dogs is being cooked. The flesh is cut into small pieces and fried with water chestnuts and garlic in oil. In the windows of the restaurant dogs’ carcasses are suspended, for the purpose, I suppose, of attracting the attention of passengers” (75).

He further writes:

The flesh of black dogs and cats is generally preferred because it is supposed to possess more nutriment than that of cats and dogs of any other color. At Ying-tong, a suburban district of Canton, a fair is held at which dogs are sold for food; and in one of the streets dogs and cats are daily exposed for sale. The dogs are put to death by strangling, stabbing, or felling with clubs” (76).

Something that has not changed since the days described in Gray’s book is the belief in the medicinal benefits of dog meat.

Dog meat dish, via Sohu.com.

Especially in summer, dog’s flesh is believed to serve as an antidote against summer heat, and to be nutritious and beneficial as a source to enhance male virility or to boost the liver. Even at present, Chinese media promote the eating of dog meat to boost the immune system and help stimulate better blood circulation.

It should be noted that although China has a long history of dog meat consumption, it also has a long history of dog domestication and dog-human comradery. Dogs were pets, guarded the house, used in hunting, and also used in rituals of sacrifice.

Ceramic crouching dog, excavated from Henan burial site, dating from Han Dynasty, 206BC-220AD, Henan Museum.

Most of the 20th century (1900-1978) was a tough time for people in mainland China, and it was a tough time for dogs too. In many times, there was barely enough food to eat, and under Mao’s rule, dogs were considered “parasites” and were outlawed as pets (Coren 2018; Li et al 2017, 514).

Those who kept pets were seen as part of the ‘bourgeoisie,’ and during the Cultural Revolution, pet dogs were reportedly seized and beaten to death in front of their owners (Coren 2008, ch. 21).

Much has changed since those days. Although (stray) dogs, as carriers of diseases and potentially aggressive, are often still considered a drain on society, having a dog as a pet has become much more commonplace in China since the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Eating dog meat has become less popular, especially among young people in China, who have grown up very differently from their parents and have different perceptions of dogs.

Chinese writer Bang Xiao looks back on the first time his mother served him dog meat during Chinese New Year, writing:

For them, dog meat was just like any of the other meats, and coming from a generation who lived through famine and the Cultural Revolution, I was told I should be grateful. For me though, it meant I was eating my own pet Duo Duo. I cried.”

Later on, he writes about his parents:

They weren’t “dog eaters”. They were just people that happened to have a different history that led to different animals being on the menu.

 

THE YULIN DOG MEAT FESTIVAL

“Don’t go, don’t eat it, don’t pay attention to it.”

 

Despite the general unpopularity of dog meat in China, there is one time of the year when the discussions on the practice of dog eating flare up again, and that is during the Yulin Lychee & Dog Meat Festival, an annual event that’s been held over the past decade in the Chinese city of Yulin intended to generate income from tourism (Brown 2018).

Some 10,000 to 15,000 dogs and cats are slaughtered during the 10-day event that starts on June 21st every year. The event attracts hundreds of people every day. There is a restaurant strip and a market where dozens of vendors cook various dog meat dishes in large woks and where live dogs are sold and slaughtered.

Although the voices of those people protesting the festival seem to grow louder year on year, the dog meat festival continues. It is not illegal, and its economic benefits have become of crucial importance for many in the city of Yulin.

Vendor selling dog meat at the Yulin festival, image via Sina Video/Miaopai.

A 2016 media survey held among 2000 people from various ages and places in China found that 64% of the people opposed to the festival, 52% thinks that dog meat should be banned in China, and 70% said they had never had dog meat themselves.

“Don’t go, don’t eat it, don’t pay attention to it. When there’s no business, the killing will stop,” one Weibo commenter suggests.

 

A MURKY MARKET

“There does not seem to be a Chinese dog meat market that is both cruel-free and completely legal.”

 

Apart from Yulin, the eating of dog meat is barely a celebrated tradition in China anymore.

For a What’s on Weibo article from 2015, we could still find 122 restaurants listed as ‘dog meat’ specialty restaurants in the city of Beijing on restaurant site Dianping. But at present, Dianping no longer publicly lists any restaurants when searching for ‘dog meat’ specialty places (note that there still are restaurants serving dog meat, but they might not be listed due to controversy or for fear for activists).

China’s biggest e-commerce websites sell different herb mixes for dog stews or dog meat hotpots (see tweet below), but the market could hardly be called thriving.

Yet, despite all those people on Chinese social media saying that eating dog meat should not be a problem for those who still want to eat it, China’s dog meat market does actually have a problem.

China has no law that bans the eating of dogs; eating dog meat is a personal freedom. But what makes the issue murky and troublesome is that China actually has no large-scale legal dog farms, nor legal dog slaughterhouses.

The very few dog farms in existence in China would never be adequate to provide the meat for the industry in southern China, let alone for the estimated 10,000+ dogs slaughtered in Yulin every year.

It is therefore not clear where the dogs that are used for their meat in China come from. Are they stray dogs? Are they stolen from the streets? And if so, would this not be considered illegal (Brown 2018; Cao 2014; Yan 2015, 46)?

Every now and then scandals appear in the media of restaurants slaughtering and killing dogs that were actually people’s pets (for example, this scandal in Jilin in 2018 or in Chengdu this year).

Another issue making the dog meat market a problematic one is the cruel treatment of the dogs.

China has seen countless of food scandals over the years, and some of them involve the selling of poisoned dog meat. As a result, many people have a general distrust in (frozen) meat products and want to make sure they are consuming good quality meat.

Dog meat markets such as Yulin, therefore, often sell living dogs. They are virtually like ‘wet markets’ for dogs, where those who want to eat dog meat can do so with the assurance that the meat they are eating is fresh and safe. The dogs are slaughtered at the spot or are sold alive for home consumption (Brown 2018).

Photo by Sasha Sashina.

The process of being transported, being displayed in tiny cases in the summer heat, and being killed in often cruel ways all add to the enormous stress and pain the animals at the live dog market are suffering.

China currently has no laws from the perspective of animal welfare to minimize the pain and suffering during transport, the selling, or at the point of slaughter (Brown 2018).

For the aforementioned reasons and more, festivals such as the Yulin Dog Meat one are getting more controversial year on year, with more and more Chinese calling for a boycott and a ban.

 

DISTORTED DISCUSSIONS

“If you eat dog meat of unknown origin, you might be participating in the killing of someone else’s pet.”

 

As the discussions on dog meat in China are ongoing following the South Korea protests, one blogger posted a survey asking netizens if they support the eating of dog meat.

Despite the many commenters who also defend the practice of dog eating, a majority of 67% percent among the 32.000 participants said they do not support it as “dogs are our friends.”

A recurring sentiment expressed on Chinese social media on the issue is that there essentially is nothing wrong with eating dog meat – and that it would be hypocritical to only oppose to eating dog without also opposing eating sheep, cows, chickens, and so on – as long as it is legal, and as long as the dogs are not stolen, poisoned, or abused.

But that’s the whole issue at hand: all those things are in fact happening in the dog meat industry today. It is difficult to discuss the eating of dogs based on the hypothetical assumption that these things are not occurring.

Consumers are not buying (frozen) meat from legal dog farms and certified dog slaughterhouses, they are mostly buying living dogs or dog meat from unknown origins, and the process of selling and slaughtering often goes hand in hand with cruel treatment.

“I don’t oppose to eating dog, but I hate the dog trafficking market,” one person says. Another commenter agrees, writing: “I don’t oppose to the eating [of dogs] that are bred for it, but I do oppose to those who steal other people’s dogs. Most of the dog meat I’ve seen comes from unknown origins. (..) If you eat dog meat that you don’t know the origin of, you might be participating in the killing of someone else’s pet.”

For now, China and South Korea are very different when it comes to their dog meat industries and their (legal) changes. The countries do seem to have one thing in common, which is that the practice of eating dog meat is no longer popular among the younger generations.

This might suggest that as sales are dropping, the dog meat market will shrink and might eventually disappear altogether if there is no interest in it.

“Don’t hype the dog meat festival,” one Weibo commenter writes: “It’s the hype that made it big and that led to more dogs being killed.

This basically reiterates the advice of one of the aforementioned commenters: don’t go, don’t eat it, don’t pay attention to it, and the business will, eventually, die out.

Want to read more? Also see:

20 Facts About Dogs & Dog-Eating in China
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival: 10 Views From Chinese Netizens
Tradition or Abuse? Chinese Views on the Yulin Dog Meat Festival

By Manya Koetse

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References

Brown. Hannah. 2018. “Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival: A Shift in Focus.” In: Tourism Experiences and Animal Consumption: Contested Values, Morality and Ethics, Carol Kline (eds), Chapter 15. London: Routledge.

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].

Coren, Stanley. 2008. The Modern Dog: A Joyful Exploration of How We Live with Dogs Today. New York: Free Press.

–. 2018. “What Is China’s Current Attitude Concerning Dogs?” Psychology Today, Feb 21 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201802/what-is-chinas-current-attitude-concerning-dogs [7.15.19].

Gray, John Henry. 1878. China: A History of the Laws, Manners, and Customs of the People (Volume II). London: MacMillan & Co.

Li, P. J., Sun, J., & Yu, D. 2017. “Dog “Meat” Consumption in China: A Survey of the Controversial Eating Habit in Two Cities.” Society and Animals, 25(6), 513–532. http://doi.org/10.1163/15685306-12341471

Xiao, Bang. 2018. “Chinese New Year: Remembering how I first ate dog meat, and how differences bring us together.” ABC, February 17 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-17/chinese-dog-meat-eating-linked-to-history-of-famine/9454394 [7.15.19].

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

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