17 June 2020 – Although China removed dogs from its national livestock catalogue at the end of May 2020, banning the sale of live dogs and dog meat for food, the privately organised dog meat festival in Yulin is still set to start on June 21, according to global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS. While there are no official event organisers, locals continue to gather to eat lychees and dog meat on the occasion of the summer solstice. In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which is suspected to have originated in a live animal market, FOUR PAWS calls on the Chinese authorities to stop the illegal dog slaughtering in Yulin. In addition to severe animal cruelty, the unhygienic slaughter conditions are the perfect breeding ground for new zoonotic viruses, thus posing a serious threat to global public health.
Local observers suggest that the dog meat festival, which was initiated in 2009 and has been unofficial since 2014, will again take place in China this year. It has been reported to FOUR PAWS that numerous trucks full of dogs have arrived in the city of Yulin in the last few days. There, the infamous festival will kick off with the solstice celebrations and will end on June 30. During the ten days of the festival, an estimated 1,000 dogs will be paraded in cramped wooden boxes and metal cages, and ultimately slaughtered, cooked, and eaten in restaurants in the area.
"It is extremely disappointing that this festival is being allowed to continue with the authorities choosing to turn a blind eye to this illegal activity. It appears that China's decision to stop classifying dogs as livestock is apparently just empty lip service. If the authorities in Yulin do not intervene, they will not only be co-responsible for the brutal slaughter of thousands of dogs, but also for endangering public health"
says says Dr Karanvir Kukreja, veterinarian and Project Manager for FOUR PAWS’ Ending the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Campaign.
Dr Kukreja adds: “The unsanitary conditions in which the dogs are kept and slaughtered at the festival could lead to outbreaks of diseases such as rabies and cholera, as well as the emergence of new deadly zoonotic viruses, as we have seen with COVID-19. China had the chance to be a role model here, especially for Southeast Asia, but allowing this festival to continue shows that they are not serious about addressing the health risks the dog and cat meat trade poses."
10 million slaughtered dogs and cats in Southeast Asia
The dog and cat meat trade is not limited to China. FOUR PAWS' research shows that in Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia around 10 million dogs and cats are killed for their meat every year although only a minority of locals consume the meat. In many cases, the animals are pets stolen from their owners to be drowned, hanged, or stabbed and subsequently eaten. To put a sustainable end to the brutal dog and cat meat trade in Southeast Asia, FOUR PAWS has launched a campaign on an international and national level. “Through educational work and cooperation with the responsible authorities, local communities and the tourism industry, FOUR PAWS’ goal is for Governments in Southeast Asia to introduce, strengthen and enforce animal protection laws, which will bring an end to the capture, slaughter and consumption of dogs and cats,” says Dr Kukreja. Furthermore, FOUR PAWS supports local animal welfare organisations and communities with humane and sustainable stray animal care programmes. FOUR PAWS is also part of the animal welfare coalitions DMFI (Dog Meat Free Indonesia) and ACPA (Asia Canine Protection Alliance), which lobby against the trade in Southeast Asia, as well as the Asia for Animals Coalition, which works to improve the welfare of animals across Asia.
The support for an end to this cruel trade has gained global traction which has received over 770,000 signatures since it launched late last year.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za