People Will Never Stop Eating Dog Meat At China's Annual Yulin Festival As Officials Deny Banning Its Sale After Public Outrage

  • 15/06/2017
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crispy-dog-meat-stew.jpgOfficials of a Chinese city which holds the notorious annual dog meat festival on the summer solstice have denied they had banned the sale of canine meat.

In an interview with a Chinese newspaper, a government spokesman from Yulin, in southern China's Guangxi Province, said that the 'Lychee Dog Meat Festival' was local custom and the authority was not in a position to stop it from happening.

The claim came after an outrage among Yulin residents following many reports of the alleged ban, and they accused the government of interfering with their privacy and their rights in choosing what they eat, an insider said.

A spokesman from the Yulin Propaganda Department told The Beijing News today that the government had never issued a ban on the sale of dog meat. 

According to the report, the department insisted that the festival was organised by local residents themselves and was customary. 

The department claimed they had never heard of the alleged ban and did not know how overseas media had obtained their information.

In May, the Yulin government was said to have informed the local vendors to stop selling dog meat in the lead up to the summer solstice, which falls on June 21 this year. The news was widely reported by media around the world.

Multiple sources confirmed that the ban had been given to the vendors in downtown Yulin orally by the city's officials.   

Apparently, the ban is set to prohibit the sale of dog meat in central Yulin between June 15 and 23, especially in major shops and markets, such as the Dongkou Market.

A Guangxi-born animal activist, who prefers to be known as Kimi, said she was not surprised by the government's denial of the alleged ban. 

Kimi, who has been advocating for animals rights for more than five years, explained that the Yulin residents were enraged after the alleged ban had appeared in media around the world.

The local people were said to be furious at the fact that the government should try to control what they eat, buy and sell. 

'It's a way for the government to wipe their hands clean on the matters,' said Kimi.

In a previous interview, Kimi said Yulin people's dog-eating practice wouldn't and couldn't be stopped by criticism or suppression.

She said Yulin locals have shown open hostility towards media and visitors.

Reporters were said to have been banned from entering the markets around the summer solstice in previous years; and anyone carrying a camera ran the risk of having their device smashed by angry traders.

'Officers from the Ministry of State Security and policemen were stationed by the entrance of the dog meat markets undercover to stop people from going in with cameras and phones to take pictures.'

Hostility runs so high that after the latest ban was reported in May, even dog owners and those who don't eat dog meat in Yulin have shown aggression towards the decision on internet forums, according to Kimi.

'They feel media don't have the right to judge what they eat.' 

Kimi, who is from nearby Liuzhou city, said the phenomenon of eating dogs has been observed in Guangxi and the neighbouring Guangdong provinces for hundreds of years.

However, people didn't gather up to celebrate and eat dog meat openly until around the 1980s when the activity was promoted by the dog meat vendors and the authority. 

Vendors would give customers free lychees, a seasonal fruit, if they buy dog meat, which is why the festival is also known as the 'Yulin Lychee Dog Meat Festival'.

Kimi called the current situation in Yulin 'tense' and 'dangerous'.

She said a better way to stop pet dogs from being stolen, killed and eaten is to teach the Yulin people how to love dogs as companions - instead of blaming them for eating dogs.

It's been estimated that 10 million dogs are slaughtered for meat in China annually. Many of them are believed to be stolen pets.

The animal is eaten in some other Asian countries, such as Vietnam and South Korea.

The summer solstice is the day to mark the end of the dog meat season in Yulin, according to Dr Peter J. Li, the Associate Professor of East Asian Politics at the University of Houston-Downtown and the China Policy Specialist from Humane Society International.

While commenting on the alleged ban, Dr Li said it was unlikely to stop the dog meat banquets in private homes or at private events on summer solstice.

He explained that Yulin, a city in the largely agricultural Guangxi Province, is spread out and composed of a large rural area, and it would be hard to restrict what the locals eat.

In a picture taken by the local contact of Dr Li's, a popular dog meat restaurant in Yulin was operating as usual in May after the ban had apparently been issued.

The picture shows the chained restaurant, Yulin No.1 Crispy Dog Meat Restaurant, has apparently removed the word 'dog' in its store sign, leaving the shop to be called 'Yulin No.1 Crispy Meat Restaurant'.

'It's definitely selling dog meat and it has no signs of closing,' said Dr Li. 

He added: 'The price of crispy dog meat is about 60 yuan (£6.8) per kilo, but it varies depending on the demand. 

'In the market, the price of uncooked dog meat is about 17 to 25 yuan (£1.9 to £2.8) per kilo.' 

The restaurant bills itself as an 'internationally renowned' restaurant serving dishes made with 'healthy dogs carefully raised by farmers'.

Jill Robinson MBE, Animals Asia's Founder and CEO, warned that media shouldn't focus their attention on Yulin in order to stop the dog meat trade in China.

According to Ms Robinson, who has worked in the animal welfare industry for over 30 years, people should look at China as a whole, where some 10 million dogs are slaughtered every year, and many of them are poisoned and stolen from homes or snatched from the streets. 

Ms Robinson said that animal welfare education is the key in China.

'While dog meat eating is legal within China, those wanting to eat in defiance of public opinion and any proposed moratoriums will find a way.

'What we need now is to make sure the message is heard outside of Yulin, on all the other days of the year when millions of dogs die for their meat. 

'We need to continue working with the authorities, with Chinese organisations and with the public to change opinions and prove that dogs are friends, not food.'

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