Lessons From Yulin:
What this year’s efforts to end the Yulin dog meat festival taught us
The year 2017 has been a critical turning point for ending the global dog meat trade. This was the year organizations, activists, and people around the world came closest to victory. Celebrities used their platforms to tell the world about the festival, while millions of people got their friends and families to speak out. Animal organizations made inroads with local officials, allowing them to save tens of thousands of dogs and coming closer than ever to getting a temporary ban enforced.
But as with most fights to change the status quo, the journey is long. It can be a frustrating experience for those who have invested so much. Most importantly, it’s heartbreaking to the people who have spoken out and are working hard on the ground to know many animals will still die.
Still, each year brings with it new lessons and a chance to build on the progress that has been made. This year maybe more so than ever. Here are some reflections on where the battle to end Yulin and the global dog meat trade stands — It’s knowledge that will be key to carving a path to victory.
Lesson #1: There are signs of progress from Yulin authorities
After years of pleas and protests, animal lovers around the world were cautiously optimistic when news broke that dog meat sales would be temporarily banned at this year’s festival. But with dog meat still legal everywhere in China, Yulin authorities had little leverage to follow through with a temporary ban, and caved under pressure from Chinese dog meat vendors.
Irene Feng, Director of Dog and Cat Welfare in China, Animals Asia explains that attempts to implement the temporary ban are actually a positive sign that Yulin authorities are interested in finding a solution to end the festival:
“We do believe that the government has had enough and wants to end the global association of Yulin with the minority practice of eating dog meat.”
Andrea Gung, founder of Duo Duo Project explained that although the festival carried on, this year’s moves by government officials indicate progress:
“We understand the disappointment and anger because the slaughter and sale of dogs will continue this year, despite a fleeting ray of hope. But we also urge you to remember that change does not occur overnight, and Yulin’s attempt to curtail the trade — however briefly — is a sign that our pressure is taking its toll.”
Lesson #2: China has a blossoming animal rights movement
On the eve that the Yulin festival was to begin, Chinese activists intercepted a truck with nearly 1,000 dogs and cats (mostly stolen pets) headed for slaughter. This was the largest single dog truck rescue ever — and it was led by China’s growing network of compassionate and relentless animal activists. What was noteworthy about this particular rescue is that the truck wasn’t headed for Yulin.
The truck was stopped in Guangzhau — which is China’s primary hub of dog meat consumption — hundreds of miles away from Yulin. Peter Li, China Policy Specialist for Humane Society International, explains that this rescue is emblematic of China’s younger generation, who are making progress by changing hearts and minds across the nation, even in areas of their country where dog meat is a staple:
“Hundreds of Guangzhou’s young men and women are unloading the dogs off that truck of misery. Look at these young people, the so-called spoiled generation from one of China’s most developed and affluent cities, shedding sweat for 800-plus furry individuals they have no personal connections with on this sizzling summer day. They have shown to the world that the Chinese activists are capable of working miracles.
They are extremely courageous. They operate in a society where activism can be quickly shut down or punished. They can also face violence from people who are engaged in the dog meat trade. Yet, they still push forward despite the risks to their own safety.”
Li explains that China’s animal protection community has blossomed into a rapidly expanding, pragmatic, strategic, and politically savvy force:
“The leaders of the rescue are seasoned and experienced activists who use smart strategy to defeat the traders and forces of evil, and use reason rather than emotion to win support from those in the middle. Dramatizing cruelty or suffering does not always help. They [the Guangzhou rescuers] see government as an ally, not an enemy. Winning government support is also a way to shape policy change in the long run.”
“With these young people, the dog meat industry has no future. The day of its demise is fast approaching.”
Lesson #3: The problem is bigger than just Yulin
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival of 2017 is over. The vendors may have packed up until next year, but the dog meat trade is still alive and well. Organizations and activists stress the need to focus on the fight to end the global dog meat trade. 30 million dogs are killed annually for meat across the world, a staggering statistic that proves the fight doesn’t start or end with Yulin.
Many are working to end the sale of dog meat every day of the year, through a holistic approach of public education and legislative change. Tackling the source of the problem will be key to ensure those working to end the dog meat trade are not literally chasing their tails year after year.
Jill Robinson, founder of Animals Asia, summed up this approach when she said, “The path to victory isn’t ending a single festival. Ending Yulin won’t end dog meat eating, but ending dog meat eating will end Yulin.”
Want to learn more about the organizations mentioned? Be sure to visit their websites:
- Duo Duo: http://www.duoduoproject.org/
- Humane Society International: http://www.hsi.org/
- Animals Asia: https://www.animalsasia.org/
Sources for this story: