In Partnership With Humane Society International
Warning: Distressing Content
At the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival thousands of dogs are killed and eaten – but cats are victims of the lesser-known cat meat trade too.
In fact, it’s estimated around 10,000 to 15,000 cats and dogs are killed across the 10-day festival, which takes place in China during the summer solstice, and has done annually since 2010.
Sadly, many of the cats found crammed into tiny cages have collars, indicating they are – or were – somebody’s pet.
The carnage has been caught on camera by Humane Society International (HSI):
My cats, Claude and Bilo, are both wonderful animals. They have their own personalities, they sense your emotions and they’re very loving – on their own terms, of course.
See, cats are intelligent creatures, and they suffer when they’re not in their comfort zone.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out their state after being plucked off the street and crammed into tiny cages by the time they even get to the slaughterhouse… if they make it that far.
Many die from shock, stress, dehydration or exhaustion on the journey.
Of course, it’s not just at the Yulin festival cats are killed for the cat meat trade. HSI estimates around four million cats are killed for human consumption in China every year.
Substantially more dogs are killed – around 10 million – which is why the issue of dog meat has been highlighted over the cat meat trade.
But, every animal is important, and cats need protecting too.
Celebrities such as Ricky Gervais have signed petitions against the dog and cat meat trade, and spoken out on social media in some cases.
Speaking in a Facebook video, Gervais said:
I don’t get it, I can’t seem to stop it. It’s just the most horrendous thing I’ve ever heard of.
It’s misleading as well, where it says ‘Yulin Dog Festival’, where you could say there’s no difference — if you eat meat, I don’t eat meat, but if you do, you could say there’s no difference to eating a dog than eating a cow or a sheep.
The actor and activist went on to explain how animals are treated badly as they meet their demise because it’s believed fear makes the meat ‘taste better’ when it’s cooked.
Condemning the cruelty, he said:
But what they do to these dogs is they torture them first because it causes an overwhelming sense of fear and pain, adrenaline, and they think that makes the meat taste better.
It doesn’t matter if it does, it’s sadistic, it’s f*cking mental.
Harry Potter actor, Evanna Lynch, teamed up with HSI to record a video to raise awareness of the cat meat industry.
She met a cat called Li who was rescued in Yulin, where she was found stuffed into a tiny cage with other cats, ‘terrified and waiting to die’.
When I first found out that cats are also victims of Asia’s deadly meat trade, it broke my heart.
I love all animals, but cats have a special place in my heart so I was delighted to meet Li and see how she’s put her distressing meat trade ordeal behind her.
Dr Peter Li, HSI’s China Policy Expert said he had seen ‘first-hand’ at the Yulin festival the rows of cages on the slaughter trucks, each one ‘packed tight with cats meowing in distress, their little paws often crushed as the cages are offloaded and thrown on the road’.
It’s just not how these intelligent, independent creatures should live and die:
Dr Li thinks it’s time cat lovers are educated about this harsh reality, adding:
People around the world are increasingly aware of the horrors of the dog meat trade, but few realise that cats are caught up in this trade too.
Most people in China don’t eat dogs and cats, and there is growing vocal opposition to the trade, particularly because so many companion animals are stolen.
Animal lovers in both China and around the world can agree that the lives of all animals matter, but is there something worse about killing and eating our companions?
HSI’s Wendy Higgins reflects on the fact that most people share their homes and hearts with cats and dogs and so, naturally, they feel especially drawn to their suffering.
She told UNILAD:
It’s understandable because we relate to these animals as individuals.
Many people join this campaign because of their love for cats and dogs, but go on to reflect on the suffering of other animals like pigs and cows and sheep, and in so doing they widen their circle of compassion.
Certainly the suffering these dogs and cats endure at Yulin is unspeakable.
Unfortunately, the Yulin festival is a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the awful, unrelenting slaughter of dogs and cats which take place all year round across China, but it has come to symbolise ‘everything that is so wrong about the meat trade’.
So what needs to happen now?
Higgins told UNILAD there needs to be action on a government level.
HSI are imploring the Yulin authorities to commit to decisive action, as Higgins put it, ‘rather than concerning themselves with keeping the offensive trade out of sight’.
Many of HSI’s partner groups in the ground in China are calling for state-level pressure for the local authorities to act too, after a short-lived ban on the dog and cat meat trade implemented last year was quickly lifted.
It should be a no-brainer – most people in China don’t eat dog, it doesn’t contribute significantly to the economy, it’s fuelled by crime, it breaches food safety laws, it helps spread disease including deadly rabies, and it brings shame on China’s global reputation.
There has to come a turning point soon where the Chinese government decides the interests of a handful of traders and thieves cannot be allowed to outweigh the health of the nation and the rule of law.
HSI has pledged to keep exposing the suffering of innocent animals and supporting their Chinese partners to make the case for change until then.
As the festival continues to attract more and more attention year after year, hopefully it’s on the way to being put to an end.
No cat, and no dog, deserves to have their life ended in such a horrific, barbaric way. It’s cruel, and it’s inhumane.
Go and give your pets a big cuddle and the love they deserve.
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.