In the face of continuing inaction from officials in southern China, activists and animal welfare groups around the world are still struggling to put an end to a summer solstice celebration that is said to result in the slaughter of thousands of dogs every year. The Yulin Dog Meat Festival, in Guangxi province, has been the focus of an intense international awareness campaign for a number of years, with activists hoping to pressure Chinese officials to put a stop to it, but the annual event is reportedly still taking place later this month.
Each year for the festival, an estimated 10,000 dogs are shipped to Yulin, where they are killed for their meat and served in restaurants, according to media reports and animal rights groups. Most of the animals are either strays or pets that are stolen off the streets and sold into the dog meat trade. While other countries in Asia have banned the sale and consumption of dog meat, the practice remains legal in China.
Reporting for NPR from Beijing, journalist Stuart Leavenworth said the Yulin festival is set to begin on June 21 despite activists’ efforts to convince the local government to crack down. Those efforts have been voluminous and widespread, with everyone from celebrities to public health organizations to U.S. politicians weighing in. Last month, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., introduced a congressional resolution to officially condemn the festival and call on the Chinese government to end the dog meat trade, which the World Health Organization has linked to outbreaks of cholera and rabies.
“This extreme spectacle of animal cruelty is both inhumane and a threat to public health in Yulin,” Hastings said in a statement. “The United States cannot stay silent.”
More than two dozen members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival has been the focus of criticism by animal rights groups for years, but viral campaigns on social media have recently brought greater awareness to the issue. YouTube is awash in graphic videos showing animal carcasses and dogs being bludgeoned to death, purportedly for their meat, with some videos toping 1 million views. The clips join countless online petitions, viral news articles and hashtag campaigns like #StopYulin bent on putting an end to the event, some of which have gotten the attention of celebrities like Carrie Fisher and Ricky Gervais.
A representative from Change.org, the online petition site, told International Business Times the Yulin festival is the focus of two out of the top three most popular petitions in the site’s history. Both were launched about two years ago and are still active. One petition, launched by a Canadian animal rights group called Raise UR Paw, has more than 4.6 million supporters, and another, launched by the California nonprofit Duo Duo Project, has almost 2.5 million.
The Duo Duo project has also raised more than $25,000 to provide emergency care for dogs saved from slaughterhouses in Yulin. Its founder, Andrea Gung, has visited the festival and has described witnessing dogs still wagging their tails moments before being killed. In an interview with Leavenworth last week, Gung said the local government is aware of the problem, but “no one wants to stick their neck out” to stop it.