Activists Save 68 Dogs From Slaughter at China's Yulin Meat Festival

Animal rights activists in China have saved the lives of 68 dogs that were destined to be slaughtered at the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in the city of Yulin—located in the Guangxi autonomous region.

The activists intercepted a truck packed with the dogs outside the city, just as the festival was set to begin, animal rights non-profit Humane Society International (HSI) said in a statement.

The festival is held every year during the summer solstice, with attendees eating dog meat and lychees as the name suggests. Thousands of dogs are killed to be consumed at the festival each year.

According to the non-profit, the dogs seemed to be terrified and exhausted having endured a long journey on the highway without food or water.

The dogs were tightly packed into rusty wire cages that were so small the animals could barely move—a situation made worse by the oppressive heat. Activists said that the dogs were panting and appeared traumatized when they found them. Many were in poor physical condition.

Activists had been urging authorities in Yulin to conduct more checks on the highways entering Yulin to stop trucks carrying dogs. But a lack of action on the part of officials forced them to take matters into their own hands.

One of the activists, Liang Jia, said in a statement: "It was so frustrating to watch trucks of dogs arrive in Yulin when the authorities were supposed to be stopping them and confiscating the dogs. So we decided to save some dogs ourselves and waited on the highway for the next truck to arrive."

Eventually, the activists flagged down a truck driver and convinced them to hand over the dogs because they were clearly stolen pets, for which he didn't have the required legal paperwork.

"The dogs offered us their paw just like a pet at home, and they had healthy teeth which means someone was looking after them before they were stolen," Liang said.

"The Yulin authorities have a responsibility to protect public health, even if they don't also care about the animals like we do. These poor dogs look sick, and thankfully now they will receive veterinary care, but who knows what diseases they could carry that would end up in the food market."

After rescuing the dogs from the truck, the activists took the animals to a temporary holding facility to rest and receive veterinary care. They were then taken to a shelter supported by HSI.

Peter Li, China policy specialist for HSI, said in a statement: "These activists are typical of a new generation in China who strongly oppose the dog and cat meat trades and are prepared to take action to see it ended in places like Yulin.

"The truth is that most Chinese people, including those in Yulin, don't eat dogs. The suffering of these animals in Yulin is of course a tragedy, but we need to be calling for an end to this brutal trade every day across China, not just a few days in June in one city."

Dog meat is only eaten by a small percentage of people, surveys have revealed. And one survey, conducted by Chinese polling company Horizon, found that 64 percent of citizens in the country would like to see the Yulin festival end.

"The suffering of these animals in Yulin is of course a tragedy, but we need to be calling for an end to this brutal trade every day across China, not just a few days in June in one city," Li said. "Thankfully these 68 dogs are now safe after what must have been a terrifying ordeal, but for thousands more dogs in Yulin and millions across the country, the cruelty continues.

"Through dog theft, illegal trans-provincial transport and inhumane slaughter, the trade not only subjects animals to suffering but also risks public health with the potential for the spread of rabies and other diseases. These are compelling reasons for the Chinese authorities to end this trade once and for all."

Dogs headed for Yulin Meat Festival
Chinese activists intercept a truck loaded with 68 dogs just outside Yulin, China in June, 2021. Guangxi activists/HSI