As a dog owner who treats her Maltese like an actual child, when I see news articles about some messed up people throwing puppies into a river or trapping cats in sealed boxes, I’m furious at the show of animal cruelty. We are allegedly the smartest animal species in the world, but then we kill helpless animals just for a video or for the fun of it. It’s barbaric, and it’s honestly the reason why I still believe humanity is innately evil.
Take, for example the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival. It’s known worldwide as the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, and yes, it is exactly what you think it is. For the last 10 days of June, locals parade captured dogs before skinning it alive and eating it according to their traditions.
It’s gained worldwide attention for all the wrong reasons, with people demanding the Chinese government ban the festival. However, to this day, it is still an active festival and is scheduled to celebrate its tenth run in a few months.
Despite the outrage at photos of dog festivals, there are two groups telling protesters to sit down and shut up: people who cite cultural heritage and vegans. The first group of people claim that Chinese people have been eating dogs for years, and what is strange to westerners is tradition to everyone else. So expecting the Chinese to stop eating dog meat because it makes westerners uncomfortable is like Indians demanding we stop eating burgers because cows are sacred in their country.
Many vegans, on the other hand, while they denounce the activity of eating meat of any kind, like to point out the hypocrisy in the situation. Most of the people who are outraged by the dog festival are people who have no qualms about eating any other animal. So, before people can judge the dog festival, vegans use this to argue that they should also be angry about meat.
To all the vegans and dog festival apologists thinking this sort of way, sit down. Your argument holds no water (yes, even you, cultural practice people) because you’re not talking about what goes on behind the dog meat festival that actually outrages people.
Why Does the Yulin Dog Meat Festival Exist?
While the dog meat festival only began in 2009, there’s evidence that Chinese civilization has been consuming dog meat over 4,000 years ago. There was a belief that consuming dog meat had certain benefits, including warding off heat. It’s why the festival is always scheduled towards the end of June, during the summer solstice.
The festival spans for 10 days. During this time, captured dogs are paraded in crates and cages around Yulin, Guangxi before being skinned, cooked, and consumed by locals and visitors witnessing the festival. Before 2015, up to 15,000 dogs would be killed and consumed. However, once it picked up global attention, it dropped to around a thousand dogs.
Festival organizers and residents who partake in the festival claim that dogs are killed humanely. They argue that, in a cultural sense, it’s no different from Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving with turkeys (and even going as far as ceremoniously “sparing” a turkey, or a traditional American BBQ grill.
In Defense of Dog Meat
Some people see the outrage against the dog meat festival as a sign of hypocrisy, racism, and western centrism by exoticizing the culture of another civilization simply because it doesn’t fall in with their own outlook of dogs.
One online writer argued against the hypocrisy of the outrage. In 2016, over 11 million people signed a petition to ban the dog meat festival. However, she points out that while thousands of dogs are killed for the event, over 10 million dogs are consumed annually all over China, though outrage against the practice in general has been silent.
She argues that dog meat has been a part of Chinese culture for centuries, but millions of people are only outraged because they were raised in a culture where dogs and cats were seen as friends and not food. If we were to step out of our cultural views and into Indian culture, for example, we should be outraged at American culture for consuming beef even on an ordinary day because cows are a sacred symbol.
She argues that people are outraged with dog meat when people are uncaring about chicken, pigs, lambs, and cows being slaughtered for food. Pigs are even more trainable than cats and dogs, yet no one blinks an eye about porkchops because pigs aren’t a traditional domesticated pet. And some may argue that pigs taste good, but in Chinese cultures, some people may find dogs to taste even better. In some Asian countries, dog meat is also a delicacy in some regions.
More Than Just Culture
While the writer proves valid points and claims to just let the Chinese continue the practice of eating dog meat, she fails to emphasize that the outrage is with the festival, not the practice. Having grown up with a Filipina mother, I know that dog meat exists in the Philippines, and it stemmed from the fact that some rural areas don’t have the means to access other meat such as pork and fish. I don’t like the idea, but culturally speaking, they have a right to do so. And while I’m not condoning the culture of eating dog meat, that doesn’t mean the dog meat festival is acceptable.
While the festival organizers ensure that the dogs are humanely killed. However, news pieces covering the event show that this isn’t the case. Animal rights activists have found that the dogs are treated cruelly. If you look at the pictures, many dogs are beaten to death, skinned and boiled alive – definitely not a humane death the organizers promise.
Some of these dogs were supposedly not even raised to become meat. One article claimed that some of the dogs still had collars on them, hinting that they are actually household pets that were stolen for the purpose of being meat in the dog festival. In 2017, police caught a truck carrying over 1,300 dogs. Almost 40 percent of these dogs were infected, while majority of these dogs were stolen.
So, yes, even if I do eat meat, I do have the right to be upset. I’m not angry about dog meat year-round because I recognize that it is a cultural thing, and I won’t judge people for following culture. However, I do have the right to be angry about a festival that is based on the idea of torturing dogs for entertainment. It’s akin to bullfighting festivals in Spain or cockfights in Southeast Asia.
Eating dog meat is a cultural practice, and the residents of Yulin have a right to eat dog meat. But when you consider that the dog meat festival is based on the fact that people steal, torture, and kill dogs for consumption, it becomes something horrible that people around the world have the right to speak out against. So those who claim we can’t be mad at the festival if we eat burgers, think again.