WARNING: Photos may be graphic for some readers. Discretion is advised.
Residents of the southern Chinese city of Yulin have long celebrated the summer solstice with a dog-eating festival which is now being dubbed by many animal rights activists as the cruelest in the world.
During this day, the Chinese slaughter dogs and eat their meat along with some lychees and a glass of wine.
Live dogs are being sold in the markets. The meat of these domestic creatures are also readily available in slaughterhouses and public market stalls. Animal activists believe that around 10,000 dogs are k****d during the festivities.
Photos of skinned dogs hanging on hooks at market stalls or on tables along the streets have circulated across Chinese microblogs. There are also photos circulating on state media of Yulin residents celebrating the festival with dining tables strewn with lychees while they ate the dog dishes with gusto.
It is their belief that eating the dog meat provides heat that would last through the coming winter. The local tradition began sometime in the 1990s; however, dog-eating festivals are not new in China. In fact, many such local traditions date back to the time before written history.
Early celebrations to avoid protests
Protests by animal rights groups have been more vocal in recent years. In 2011, Chinese authorities following massive public outcry on the issue banned the 600-year Jinhua Hutou Dog Meat Festival.
This year, many Yulin residents chose to celebrate the dog-eating festival earlier than the summer solstice so they could avoid the protests and cries for ban from rights groups. It is unclear if the Chinese lore had provisions for celebrating the festival early, such as whether the good luck and health benefits brought by the consumption of dog meat on the day of the summer solstice will still hold true.
Government denies existence of festival
Following social media outrage, the Yulin Municipal People’s Government issued a statement that there exists no dog-eating festival in the city. Although the people are feasting on dog meat, the Yulin government insists that the festival is not officially endorsed and approved by the city. Also, the government said that no social organizations are planning the activities or hosting the festivities.
Only small gatherings are being hosted across the city, the government insists.
Based on state media reports, the government apparently instructed restaurants to remove references to dog dishes on their signboards and menus. There was, however, no instruction to ban dog meat sale and consumption.
Dog meat not illegal in China
There are no laws in China banning the sale and/or consumption of dog meat; thus, the locals continued their festival without fear of getting caught by the police and jailed.
Animals Asia activist Deng Yidan said that the backlash over the dog-eating festival has drawn negative publicity to Yulin.
The animal rights groups are protesting not just about the act of killing these domestic animals for food, but also because of the inhuman treatment the dogs often receive. Some of the animals are even stolen from their owners or just grabbed off the streets. The activists also revealed that toxic chemicals which are also harmful to humans are being used to k**l the dogs.
There were also concerns over rabies and other hygienic issues.