Yulin Festival

Dogs crammed into cages at the Yulin Dog Festival.

Animal activists and devoted dog lovers alike rejoiced after learning of reports forecasting the Chinese government’s ban on the sale of dog meat a little over a month before the start of China’s controversial Lychee and Dog Meat Festival (Yulin Dog Festival). The false claims, purportedly stemming from several animal advocacy organizations, generated confusion surrounding the event and resulted in far lower participation from activists who typically engage in protests against the festival. Despite these unfounded reports detailing the downfall of the practice, the controversial 10 day-long annual celebration began on June 21 to the satisfaction of those who benefit from this barbaric event.

Many proponents of the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival contend that the consumption of dog meat in China ought to be regarded as a cultural tradition. While it is true that Chinese citizens have historically consumed dog meat, the practice holds little cultural significance. In fact, it appears as though the Festival “only dates back to 2009 when it was launched in the city in China’s southwest to celebrate the summer solstice.”

Seeing as an astounding 62 million registered Chinese canine companions were recorded in 2016, it is clear that opposition is sourced from within China simultaneously alongside the international resistance. This finding indicates a shift in the domestic perception of dogs as pets, in lieu of delicacies destined for the dinner plate. According to a Beijing consultancy survey, two-thirds of Chinese pet owners are 35 or younger, making it apparent that support of canine rights typically harmonizes alongside the sentiments of younger Chinese citizens.

However, it appears international opposition does not resonate quite so favorably with older Yulin locals. Many Yulin residents view the international opposition as a Western attack on Chinese customs. Older generations of Chinese citizens ascribe to the belief that eating dog meat improves overall health and positively impacts one’s cultural experience. Thus, Western opinion and occasional interference has become an unwelcome convention for many elderly Chinese citizens.

This information suggests that the key to halting the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival starts from within. Local activists and outside organizations should act in tandem to influence the recognition of the importance of animal rights within older Chinese generations. By illuminating the ethical implications of this event, while remaining respectful of the historical and often misconstrued cultural significance of this sadistic celebration, we have a fighting chance at bringing the Yulin Dog Festival to its demise.

Want to know how you can have an internal impact from afar? Take an analogous animal rights victory in China, for example. A social media campaign condemning the Jinhua Hutou Dog Meat Festival in 2011 inspired Chinese authorities to ban the celebration entirely. As the six-century-long tradition came to an abrupt halt, the world simultaneously learned of social media’s ability to make any issue hit close to home for millions.

Please consider showing your support of campaigns working to combat the dog meat trade in China on social media platforms. Never underestimate this platform's ability to invoke widespread change, no matter the distance.

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