In Partnership With Humane Society International
Warning: Distressing Content
It’s an event which horrifies many across the world. At the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, Guangxi, China, held during the summer solstice, punters consume up to 5,000 dogs over the span of just ten days.
In its nearly decade-long history, the festival has attracted considerable controversy, but as long as eating dogs remains legal in China, it’s hard to see it disappearing any time soon.
Around 10 to 20 million animals are killed each year for human consumption. However, dog ownership is growing more popular among the population and there are now 62 million registered as pets.
Still, most of the dogs in China’s trade are stolen pets, and they endure a terrible ordeal before ending up at the slaughterhouse or market. The whole horrific journey often lasts up to two weeks.
In neighbouring South Korea, many of the dog activists rescued from the meat farms exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) having spent their whole life confined in a tiny barren cage.
You can watch dogs being rescued from one such farm below:
As for Yulin, dogs who survive, many end up in shelters, supported by Humane Society International (HSI), where they’re cared for before going on to be adopted.
HSI is one of the only global animal protection organisations in the world working to help all animals. This includes animals in laboratories, animals on farms, companion animals and wildlife.
Many Yulin dogs are surprisingly stable after rescue, although street dogs who are saved do less well because they’ve had less human interaction and tend to react badly to the stressful situations.
Those who suffer most from stress, will likely be the ones to die after rescue – the stress makes them more vulnerable to disease.
It’s a vicious journey, but not one without hope.
HSI is determined to help end this cruel practice, telling UNILAD:
Through fieldwork, policy formation, humane education, direct care and services, and funding of in-country partners, HSI has helped advance the cause of animal welfare in dozens of nations worldwide by protecting street dogs, responding to disasters, saving wild animals from abuse, protecting marine mammals, fighting factory farming, and striving to end toxicity testing on animals.
The Duo Duo Project is another international organisation working with law-makers to bring an end to the barbaric practice of people eating dogs.
Like HSI, their goal is to ultimately promote the benefits of pet ownership.
Revealing how the project started, they said:
Andrea was in China on a business trip in 2014 and while visiting a veterinary school, discovered a dog who was left in a room over the weekend without food or water. The dog was meant to be sold to the dog meat trade.
Andrea spent the weekend feeding the dog through the window and eventually adopted the dog. She took him home to the US where he became the namesake of the organisation.
It was from this experience that Andrea learned about the dog meat trade and practice in China.
As for how westerners can help join the fight, they say the best way is by supporting ‘efforts to change the minds and hearts in dog meat eating communities through education and advocacy’, as well as supporting ‘efforts to create lasting change.’
This can be done through efforts such as sharing our knowledge and love for animals in China.
We can send our volunteers to China to help build better shelters and provide more veterinary training.
We can share our well-developed education materials and programs on animal welfare with schools and teachers. Young people are natural animal lovers and nurturing that love is crucial.
I'd like to share some happy moments from my recent trip to China. The first is about our rescue and shelter work in China. We often provide funds, when asked, to help with the medical bills of #dogs rescued from stopped trucks or saved from slaughterhouses. We have also helped fund some shelters to get started. While in China, I visited some of the shelters we've supported (and I even brought a four-legged friend, Rudy, back from Yulin to the US). I was pleased to see our money is well spent on reputable shelters and the #animals compassionately cared for by shelter staff. Although Duo Duo Project's main focus is education and legislation, helping dogs directly is also important to us. My other happy moments came when speaking one-on-one or in a group with local #animallovers and #animalactivists. Holiday season is coming. Please consider helping us do more for much needed shelter support in China.
Angelina Lim is a dog owner who adopted from a rescue kennel back in November 2016. Her pooch, Snorki, was salvaged from Yulin by HSI’s Chinese activists prior to the festival.
Speaking to UNILAD on the subject of PTSD within rescued dogs, she said:
Snorki displayed fear aggression towards strangers at the beginning with light growling and air snapping. She never actually bit anyone. The fear aggression subsided after about 6-8 months.
It’s an amazing recovery, considering this is what she saw:
She is, until today, still distrustful of strangers and would only allow certain individuals to stroke her. She’s still slightly reactive to some strangers and with others, no issues if they stick their hand out to pet her.
But once she trusts the person she would be happy to let them stroke her and offer belly rubs. Snorki avoids children and strangers in general – she only goes up to people she knows and trusts.
As for being with other dogs, Angelina says Snorki is fine but she does not like bigger dogs. On one occasion, when a larger dog approached her in a ‘friendly manner’, she cried.
She became upset afterwards during the walk. Angelina guesses she may have been attacked in the past by a similar looking dog when still in China. She’s refused to walk down the same road again.
Another PTSD incident came about a year ago when someone tried to grab her from behind.
She started yelping distressing cries which Angelina calls out of character, explaining she since assumes Snorki had suffered a flashback from being grabbed previously.
Snorki has somewhat resumed ‘normality’. However, Angelina believes ‘it all depends on the individual dog and what experiences they’ve encountered in the past’.
Snorki was probably quite badly treated hence her distrust with strangers and her dislike at being handled.
I did meet the other dogs rescued by HSI from Yulin who were available for adoption at the same time as her but they were unlike Snorki behaviour-wise.
She went on to say:
The other dogs were loving and came to me for pets and hugs whereas Snorki had growled at me and ignored me completely when I was in the pen with her.
But I saw something in her and knew that loyalty had to be earned with her. And I was right.
Angelina is still a huge advocate for dog meat dog adoptions, but advises people to have patience and be able to spend lots of time with them – to socialise them with other people and dogs from the start of the adoption as the dogs are ‘special’.
Furthermore, they can have special needs depending on individual dogs’ past experiences.
‘No dog is the same,’ Angelina finishes. ‘My life is very enriched with Snorki around as she’s a joy to live with despite being a 24/7 eating machine. Every dog deserves a loving forever home.’
In the meantime, you can follow UNILAD’s Stop Yulin campaign, which will be running throughout the festival, from 21 to 30 June, to find out more.
Humane Society International and their Chinese animal group partners, VShine and Capital Animal Welfare Association, are petitioning the Yulin authorities to implement and enforce a total ban this year.
Speak out against this cruelty by signing the petition.