Report from Yulin, Humane Society International
Animal groups see mixed results as dog vendors fight sales ban at Chinese dog meat festival
The mood in the dog markets is greatly subdued.
The ban came into effect on 15th June one week prior to the
festival that begins on the summer solstice of 21st June. It will be
strictly enforced with fines of up to 100,000 yuan and risk of arrest
for violations. VIDEO & PHOTOS June 15, 2017:
Updated, June 16, 2017:
Chinese activists have asked Humane Society International to help circulate video filmed yesterday (June 15) at Nanqiao market in Yulin, China showing Yulin law enforcement officers closing down dog meat stalls and enforcing the compromise sales ban. As HSI reported earlier, a last-minute compromise deal was reached between angry dog meat vendors and the Yulin authorities whereby vendors are permitted to sell dog meat but limited to two dog carcasses per stand, a dramatic reduction for most vendors.
It seems that many dog meat traders have gravitated towards Nanqiao market as trading at Dongkou market, a hub for the dog meat trade, has become more problematic. HSI's Chinese partners spotted traders at Nanqiao market to be selling in apparent violation of the new order. They reported the activity to the authorities in Yulin. This was then followed by a crackdown whereby the traders were told to close down their stands, as shown in this video. Support our fight against cruelty.
HSI’s partner groups are also reporting that the Yulin police department has set up a temporary office in the main Dongkou market for daily inspections to enforce the order, and so HSI would encourage Chinese activists on the ground to swiftly report any violations they see. HSI’s partner groups will continue to monitor the situation and assist the Yulin police in taking action against dog meat vendors who violate the order.
Dr. Peter Li, HSI’s China policy specialist, said: “It is encouraging to see the Yulin authorities enforcing the compromise ban that they themselves struck with Yulin officials. It shows that while the restricted sales order is by no means perfect, it is absolutely having an impact and Yulin law enforcement want to be seen to be taking it seriously. Our Chinese partners share the frustration of animal campaigners around the world that change in Yulin is a long time coming, but they are keen for this video to go viral so that people can see that progress is being made and the dog traders are definitely feeling the pressure. This kind of crackdown is certainly causing vendors to hold off buying more dogs, and word is spreading.”
Chinese animal campaigners have traveled to the city of Yulin to assess the impact of a ban on dog meat sales introduced by Yulin officials starting June 15 2017.
Chinese animal protection groups are monitoring the main dog meat market called Dongkou, as well as other locations around Yulin, and confirm that while some dog meat is still on sale, it is currently in much smaller volumes than they have witnessed in previous years. Some dog vendors have reported that the Yulin authorities have been persuaded to make concessions to them in the last few days, although others are reducing their trade in anticipation of the ban's being more robustly implemented later this week.
HSI's Chinese activist partner Sean Long said: “It doesn’t look like business as usual at Dongkou market in Yulin. It’s disappointing to see dog meat still on sale, but nothing like the amount we’ve seen in the past. Business was slow at the market, with far fewer buyers. Some vendors we spoke with said they believed they were allowed to sell dog meat again, and hinted that some kind of concession had been gained from the authorities just in the last couple of days. However, other vendors expressed doubt that they would be allowed to continue selling dog meat for long and said that there was so much genuine uncertainty that they had decided not to order more dogs in case they can’t sell them.”
Humane Society International has campaigned for several years for an end to the Yulin dog meat festival, and is tackling the trade in dogs and cats for human consumption that takes place all year round and nationwide across China. HSI believes that while it is discouraging to see that Yulin authorities may be bowing to the interest of the dog meat traders, the impact the reported ban on sales of dog meat appears to be having on reducing sales is still a significant step in the right direction.
Dr Peter Li, HSI’s China policy specialist, said: “It’s so easy to be disheartened because of course we all want to see a total and immediate end to the sale of dogs and dog meat at Yulin, and we want to see the authorities act decisively in the public interest. But we’ve always known that ending the dog meat festival at Yulin won’t be as simple as switching off a light. Instead, it’s lots of smaller victories that build toward the end goal. From our sources in Yulin, we have learned that the authorities were taking some actions such as sending inspectors to the market to enforce the sales restriction order and starting to stop inbound dog trucks.”
We shall monitor the situation in Yulin directly through our partner group activists further up to and during the “festival” on June 21 - China’s annual dog meat festival in Yulin, at which thousands of dogs and cats are brutally bludgeoned to death and sold for their meat, animal campaigners Duo Duo Project and Humane Society International have received reports from Chinese activist and confirmed by three traders at Yulin's biggest dog meat market Dongkou, that the Yulin government is set to prohibit restaurants, street vendors and market traders from selling dog meat at the event.
The news is warmly if cautiously welcomed by Duo Duo Project, HSI and their respective Chinese animal group partners on the ground, all of whom have campaigned for years for an end to the brutality of Yulin and China’s year-round dog meat trade. While campaigners recognise that the ban is temporary and does not yet signal an end to the Yulin event in advance of which dogs are still likely to be killed, it is nonetheless a milestone victory in the ongoing campaign to end mass dog and cat slaughter at Yulin, and is evidence of growing political will from inside China to clamp down on the trade.
Andrea Gung, executive director of Duo Duo Project, says: “Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade. I have visited Yulin many times in the last two years. This ban is consistent with my experience that Yulin and the rest of the country are changing for the better. I am very impressed that the younger generation in Yulin and in China is as compassionate as their counterparts in the rest of world. Duo Duo Project also wants to congratulate Mr. Mo Gong Ming, Yulin's new Party Secretary, for his progressive and visionary leadership. I hope this will turn out to be the beginning of the end of the dog eating habit in China.”
Peter Li, China Policy specialist at Humane Society International, says: “The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet, but if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolise China’s crime-fuelled dog meat trade. Millions of dogs and cats are stolen each year, including pets, and driven thousands of miles across China to be bludgeoned to death in front of each other. As opposition to this trade has grown within China and across the world, much focus has been placed on the Yulin festival and so it is significant politically that the authorities are taking the outrage to curb this cruelty seriously. At last year’s Yulin festival there were roadblocks set up to deter dog trucks coming in, and now this ban signals further progress. Regrettably, many dogs and cats will still be killed for the Yulin festival in advance of the ban, so their suffering is not over yet, but this is certainly a milestone victory and we commend the Yulin authorities for taking this action.”
Duo Duo and HSI are urging Yulin authorities to make the ban permanent; make public service announcements warning against transporting dogs for the dog meat trade that highlight the new associated penalties; enforce food safety laws and regulations; and build a government facility to house dogs confiscated from the dog meat trade.
More than 10 million dogs and around four million cats are killed every year across China for their meat. Contrary to popular belief, the Yulin festival is not a traditional event but one invented in 2010 by dog meat traders to boost flagging sales. At its height an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 dogs were killed at Yulin, reduced to 2,000 to 3,000 in recent years. Most of the dogs are stolen pets and strays grabbed from the streets still wearing their collars when they reach the slaughterhouse where they are typically beaten to death. Most people in China don’t eat dogs, and pet owners and dog thieves have had numerous violent clashes. The dog meat trade also poses a threat to public health, with the World Health Organisation warning that the trade spreads rabies and increases the risk of cholera.
Last year, a petition with 11 million signatures was handed in to the Yulin government in Beijing on behalf of Humane Society International, Duo Duo Project, RaiseUrPaw, Care2 and Avaaz. The late Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and her dog Gary gathered with the campaigners outside the Chinese Embassy in London to send the petition on its way. Speaking at the event, Fisher said "There is so much animal suffering in the world, and much of it you feel helpless to end. But stopping the Yulin dog meat festival and ending all that suffering is easy. All the Chinese authorities need to do is declare it shut down, and the killing stops. These poor dogs need us to fight for them. Every single one of them is as precious as my dear Gary, every one of them is someone's best friend."
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., introduced a congressional resolution last year condemning the Yulin dog meat festival and urging China to end its dog meat trade. He reintroduced it this year, and H. Res. 30 already has the bipartisan support of 153 cosponsors.