YULIN DOG MEAT FESTIVAL (CHINA)
Yulin Dog Meat "Festival" (China)
The Asia for Animals Coalition, the largest coalition of animal protection organizations with particular expertise in Asia, includes a number of organizations working with or monitoring the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, which occurs annually in China. We wish to ensure that accurate information, provided by our member organizations and trusted sources, is publicly available. Please refer to this webpage for updates as the situation develops and direct any enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN YULIN?
According to our Core Member Organizations, dog meat is still sold for consumption in Yulin, despite the fact that it is now illegal to do so. Dog meat sales continue each year in Yulin to mark the summer solstice, which in 2023 is on Sunday, June 21. Sadly, cats are eaten too, though apparently in smaller numbers.
WILL YULIN GO AHEAD THIS YEAR?
The “festival” is scheduled to proceed, although dog meat is not a legal food product. In recent years, fewer dogs have been slaughtered for food, and even fewer are found alive on site. While dog meat sales continue in violation of multiple Chinese laws, regulations and policies, there has been a major shift over the last few years.
IS IT ILLEGAL TO SELL DOG MEAT FOR CONSUMPTION IN CHINA?
Yes - it is now illegal. The removal of dogs from the National Catalog of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources in 2020, together with other current regulations and laws, effectively makes the selling of dog meat illegal throughout China. The issue is now enforcement.
Members of the AfA coalition have confirmed that the National Catalog is a legal document. It is, however, presently a policy recommendation, not yet translated into legislation. The dog meat trade has been sustained by a series of acts that directly challenge the authority of a host of existing Chinese laws such as the Criminal Law, the Food Safety Law, the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law, and regulations on live transport. It is clear that selling dogs from unknown sources and in unknown conditions of health for consumption is illegal. This means that no dog restaurants, markets and slaughterhouses countrywide selling dogs as food are operating legally, including those in Yulin.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs notification on further strengthening animal quarantine work came into force on 8th June, 2020, and the first article clarifies the quarantine coverage according to the National Catalog of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources. It states that dogs and cats cannot be issued a quarantine certificate for slaughter, because cats and dogs are not included in the Catalog. Therefore the sale of dog and cat meat on sale is illegal, because the appropriate certificates cannot legally be issued.
To add weight to this, on April 4, 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the People's Republic of China issued a notice on the issuance of 22 animal quarantine regulations. Article 188.8.131.52 of the 22nd attachment "Regulations for Supplementary Inspection of Animals and Animal Products" classified dogs and cats, alongside other animals like mink, as “non-edible animals”.
There is presently much debate in China about the legal implications of traders ignoring these regulations and notifications.
DO PEOPLE EAT CATS AND DOGS BECAUSE THEY ARE POOR?
No. Despite the fact that many of the animals are stolen pets, the meat is not cheap. The traders promote it as a health tonic and as a traditional food. If the practice ended tomorrow, nobody would starve. Dog and cat meat is NOT part of China’s mainstream food culture. Dog meat was not on the government’s food rationing list in the past nor is it on the list of meat guaranteed by China’s “Strategic Meat Reserve.”
HOW MANY DOGS DIE ANNUALLY AT YULIN?
At its height, the Yulin dog meat festival was said to be responsible for 10,000 to 15,000 slaughtered dogs each year. In 2014 that figure dropped to 2,000 to 3,000. Sources in the last couple of years have put it at 1,000. However, in truth, there is no reliable monitoring and these figures may be out of date. Media attention on Yulin has been waning, especially over the past two or three years, with little targeted coverage, and there are consequently no updated figures to refer to.
HOW MANY DOGS ARE EATEN IN CHINA EACH YEAR?
The widely reported figure – though again very difficult to verify – is 10 million. During the Chinese government’s COVID restrictions on trans-provincial live transport, dog meat trade has been impacted. The slaughter number may have gone down by 20 to 30%.
HOW ARE THE DOGS KILLED?
Typically, dogs and cats are slaughtered inhumanely and inefficiently. They are snared by their necks with long metal pincers and dragged from their cages. Then they are either bludgeoned over the head, or stabbed in the neck or groin to be “bled out”. Other methods of killing include hanging or electrocution. This happens one by one, so other dogs are likely to hear the howls and witness multiple deaths ahead of their own. This further spreads panic.
We don’t believe it is a standard trade practice to boil or torch dogs alive. But inefficient slaughter techniques and the sheer scale of the killing involved means it’s probable that still-conscious dogs are added to the de-hairing machines.
An often-repeated accusation is that the dogs are beaten to improve flavor or texture. Individual traders may well have behaved this way, but it is not a standard practice of the trade. Lingering deaths tend to be the result of an inefficient slaughter rather than a deliberate attempt to inflict pain. The trade is intrinsically cruel and already very ugly. It does not need this level of brutality to make it more ugly.
SHOULD DOGS BE RESCUED FROM YULIN?
With the best of intentions, animal lovers sometimes travel to Yulin with the intent of saving animals by buying them. Unfortunately, Chinese and International NGOs have confirmed that such well-meaning actions have now begun to support the same market they are trying to end. These actions are counterproductive, increasing profits for the dog meat industry. These foreign “rescuers” pay inflated prices that could rescue more dogs elsewhere. It's suggested that local Chinese traveling to Yulin would be better advised to save dogs in their own areas.
WHO IS WORKING ON THIS ISSUE?
We encourage members of the public to contact the organizations working directly on this issue directly to support their work or receive more information about their activities.
STATEMENT from Animals Asia Foundation
“Ending dog and cat meat consumption is one of our founding goals. The great progress we have seen over the years, especially in the last year, demonstrates the overwhelming support for the protection of dogs and cats in China. We will continue our efforts to constructively support this change.”
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
There is much misinformation in circulation on the internet. Please refer to this page as a reliable source of information and rely on us to update.
Please direct any donations to the organizations working on the ground on this issue either by supporting local organizations or working on long-term change in the country.
Share news only from trustworthy sources.
Please support organizations working on the ground.
Ending Yulin won’t end dog meat eating, but ending dog meat eating will end Yulin. The focus now must be on the year-round trade in dog meat and the fact that the sale of dogs and cats, and their meat for consumption is now illegal which is rife with abhorrent cruelty and blatant illegality.