Please bless their little souls!
Dozens of journalists, filmmakers and photographers have come to the city in China’s southeast Guangxi province to document an event that lies at the center of a battle between deeply-ingrained tradition and the encroachment of the modern world. Activists say dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
Ask a local when the tradition of eating dog meat began and you’ll likely be met with a dumbfounded expression — it is akin to asking someone when people started eating beef. For many in the city, eating dog meat is a hard habit to break, despite changing attitudes about the treatment of animals in China.
In one stall, a butcher places a gutted and skinned dog on a wired sheath and uses a blow torch to cook a delicacy known to locals as “crispy skin dog meat.” As the shop owner butchers a another piece of dog, flecks of flesh flick onto her face. She tells CNN she’s been in the trade for over 10 years.
Signs around the market adorned with pictures of labradors and golden retrievers advertise raw dog meat for sale, despite new government regulations that restrict this practice.
Du Yufeng, a 58-year-old animal rights activists from Sichuan in southwest China, has made it her mission to stop dog meat consumption across China. Her protest in 2011 successfully ended the dog meat festival in Jinhua, in Zhejiang province — and she has now turned her attention to Yulin. It’s her fourth year protesting at the festival, and while dog meat continues to be a tourist attraction for the city, Du feels that there is growing awareness of animal rights in this city of six million people.
Du is one of over 20 volunteers who have descended upon the city from the far reaches of China, to boycott the festival. Many run dog and cat shelters in their hometowns and have spent their life savings to rescue abandoned and diseased animals. But canceling the annual Yulin festival is now their main objective.
Together, the activists say they’ve saved more than 400 dogs this year alone in Yulin — yet this number will be dwarfed by the number of animals likely to be slaughtered for food at the festival. Asked what makes this different from eating beef or pork, Du Yunfeng’s answer is unequivocal.