Yulin Dog Festival: Western Criticism vs. Local Patriotism

Yulin Dog Festival: Western Criticism vs. Local Patriotism
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像
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The controversial Yulin Dog Festival kicked off on Monday amid an outpour of opposition from U.S. celebrities. But how is China reacting?

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The annual Yulin dog meat festival, officially known as the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, began on June 20 in Guangxi, southern China. The 10-day event, which reportedly results in the slaying of tens of thousands of dogs, has drawn criticism from dozens of Western celebrities. In addition to numerous animal rights activists, Hollywood stars including Ricky Gervais, Matt Damon and Pamela Anderson have spoken out against the festival.

Interestingly, there is now unanimous opposition to the festival within China itself.

The Chinese government does not seem to want to associate itself with the festival or the custom of eating dog meat, which is still common in parts of Asia. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson told reporters on June 21 that the local Yulin government has never supported or organized the dog meat festival, the Oriental Daily reported.

A poll, which found that 64% of Chinese believe the dog meat festival should no longer be held, has been championed by various animal welfare groups. However, only 21% of respondents in Guanxi were of the same view. The poll surveyed 2,204 people.

Posts on Chinese social media platform Weibo likewise reflect the mixed response to the festival in China.

Many Weibo users have condemned the event, taking a stance similar to that of Western critics. One user called on the government to ban the dog meat industry, writing, “Mass murder, don’t you think it’s cruel? People of Yulin ... do you still have any humanity in you?”

Others users appear perplexed at to why those who condemn the festival are uncomfortable with eating dog meat. One user wrote, “Butchering dogs or pigs or sheep is no different, I do not see their level of civilization or barbarity as any different … do not force your wishes upon others!”

Chinese netizens also take issue with the broader industry, as opposed to the custom of eating dog meat. “I think the deplorable aspects of the dog meat festival are that the dogs are supplied through illegal means and that the industry does not meet hygiene standards,” one user wrote.

Chinese state-owned Xinhua says that at current prices, much of the dog industry would be unprofitable if the industry followed proper health regulations and did not illegally traffic animals.

There are also reports that the widespread Western criticism of the festival is having unintended consequences. According to Agence France-Presse, dog meat vendors have enjoyed increased sales this year. Hong Kong Free Press meanwhile reports that the international campaign against the event has backfired amid increased local patriotism and cultural pride.

It is estimated that between 10 and 20 million dogs in China are killed for their meat each year. Humane Society International collected 11 million signatures calling on the Chinese government to ban the festival, the Independent reported. The petition, addressing President Xi Jinping (習近平) directly, was submitted to the Yulin government office in Beijing. The same petition was rejected by the Chinese embassy in London.

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