Horror of Yulin Dog Meat Festival Exposed as Thousands Set for Slaughter

The annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, southern China, begins on Wednesday, June 21, and activists have revealed the horror of the event to Newsweek, during which thousands of dogs are set to be slaughtered for consumption.

While there is no nationwide ban on the consumption of dog meat in China, the country's Ministry of Agriculture made a public statement in 2020 to explain that dogs (and cats) are not included on the "livestock" list because they are considered companion animals.

"Dog and cat slaughterhouses break the law because they are killing animals not officially recognised as livestock for eating," Peter Li, the Humane Society International's China policy expert, told Newsweek.

Many aspects of the trade violate other laws and regulations in the country. For example, in China the law dictates that any live animal driven across provincial borders must be accompanied by an individual health and quarantine certificate, which dog thieves and traders never have.

"[Slaughterhouses] also often breach laws and regulations about noise and waste pollution," Li said.

Stolen Pets

According to Li, China's dog and cat meat trade relies heavily on the illegal activity of animal stealing to sustain itself.

"Unlike South Korea, there are no dedicated dog meat farms in China," Li said. "The majority of dogs caught up in the trade are family or 'owned' pets and strays snatched from the streets. Dog thieves use a variety of methods, including poison, dragging dogs from back yards, and drive-by grabbing of animals, to sell to traders and restaurant owners. Once they have accumulated enough, the dogs and cats are crammed in small cages in their hundreds unable to move, and piled on the back of trucks."

"Dogs shipped to Yulin during the so-called 'festival' will come from as far as Anhui, Hubei and Henan in central China, as much as 1,500 miles away. This is an excruciatingly cruel transport during which the dogs are denied any food, water and rest," he said. "Those dogs stacked at the bottom of the truck become drenched in urine and feces, while those piled in the middle of the cargo can suffocate to death."

But the animals don't just suffer during the journey. Cruelty and suffering exist in every part of the trade, according to Li.

"Once at Yulin (or any destination), the unloading of dogs is violent, with cages routinely hurled off of the truck and smashed down on to the ground. Bodily injuries caused by the sharp wire caging, biting, rough handling and limbs becoming crushed, cause untold suffering to the dogs," he said.

"The method by which they are slaughtered varies but dogs are usually beaten to death with a metal pipe in full view of each other, and then bled out from a cut to the throat or groin. When you visit a dog or cat slaughterhouse, you'll find traumatized dogs there who have witnessed the killing of their cage mates and must surely know that the same will happen to them. It's a hugely upsetting experience."

The experience of a slaughterhouse is extremely distressing for the dogs and cats, who sometimes find themselves standing in pools of blood from animals that have just been killed.

"I don't honestly think that most dog or cat slaughter workers or traders even think about the concept of whether or not the death is humane. Their main preoccupation is with getting the job done quickly and efficiently," Li said. "They don't give any consideration to what the experience is like for the animals."

"I have no doubt for example that some of the dogs and cats are not killed by the bludgeoning to the head but are knocked unconscious and could regain consciousness while being bled out, but that will mainly be because the production line of killing and butchering is done fast to make the market deadlines."

According to Li, the festival was launched in 2009/2010 by Yulin's dog meat traders purely as a commercial event in an attempt to boost their flagging dog meat sales.

"It has no cultural origins in Yulin. In fact before that date, dog meat consumption was never part of the local mainstream food culture and the 'festival' had never existed. Even now, opinion polls show that most people living in Yulin don't eat dog meat," Li said.

Caged dogs in Yulin, China
Puppies are seen in a cage at a dog meat market in Yulin, in China's southern Guangxi region on June 21, 2017. The annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin sees thousands of people flock to the city's restaurants and market stalls to eat dishes such as crispy dog meat and dog meat stew. STR/AFP via Getty Images