Yulin Dog Meat Festival: What’s the big fuss?

Today, Yulin anticipates its annual Dog Meat Eating Festival, where 10,000 dogs will be slaughtered and eaten. Since May, almost a quarter of a million tweets have been posted using the hashtag #StopYulin2015 while a petition has been started on Change.org insisting that the Chinese Government should halt the festival.

Is this a worthy campaign for justice, or a hypocritical and culturally insensitive petition?

By mid-June, over 560,000 people had signed. Despite this, in a 2013 article The Independent stated that only 150,000 people in the UK identified as vegan, so it is safe to assume that many who are objecting to the Yulin festival are meat or dairy consumers. We have to ask ourselves, what is it that people are really objecting to? Meat eating? Or the suffering involved? Or is it because in our society we consider dogs to be of more value than pigs?

After all, 9.8 million pigs are slaughtered in the UK every year, though they have been proven to display similar emotional intelligence to dogs. In fact 8 billion animals are slaughtered every year to feed the UK market without raising any eyebrows, but when a comparatively small number of dogs are led to the slaughter in a traditional Chinese festival, the media uproar begins.

‘Barbaric! Uncivilised! Savages!’ scream the public forums. I can’t help but see uncomfortable correlations between this hegemonic language and that used to stigmatise nations during the colonial period.

The petition points out that China is the most rabies stricken country in the world. Although there may be valid concerns for health and safety, it should be noted that following the mad cow outbreak, the British government didn’t receive a petition from a foreign nation or organisation demanding that the beef industry should be shut down immediately. Such criticism would likely have been met with contempt.

Besides, the Robinson’s Group estimates that 18 to 80 million dogs are eaten every year in China, and hundreds of millions more throughout Asia and Africa. In this case, the outrage towards the 10,000 that die in the festival demonstrates our societies limited understanding of the issue.

The petition states that children might see dogs being butchered in street markets and become traumatised. This seems a rather Eurocentric, culturally insensitive argument. Anyone who has visited a Chinese market will know that the slaughtering of animals in the street applies to all species, and is not limited to dogs alone. Besides, as top of the food chain we should have a full understanding of how the food we are eating has come to be on our plate. We may no longer need to hunt or gather to survive but that doesn’t mean that any meat eater is innocent of livestock slaughter.

Someone else may hold the knife, but as a meat eater, one cannot be in denial of the slaughtering process.

We are living in a world where children as old as 10 have no realisation that the lamb on their plate is the same lamb hopping around in a field and in my view this shows a lack of respect for the animal that you are eating. I’m not saying that the slaughter of puppies makes me happy, but this Sunday I will be sitting down to a full roast dinner with all the trimmings. Therefore, it would be hypocritical and self-righteous of me to oppose the Yulin festival.

In the meat and dairy industry, exploitation inevitably takes place. In 2014 the charity Animal Aid carried out a covert investigation into slaughter houses in Yorkshire. The findings were shocking, with some animals being repeatedly hacked at the throat whilst conscious. You can find more information here, but brutality is a sad and inescapable truth that meat and dairy consumers must come to terms with. I’m not saying it is right, but as a meat eater one must acknowledged this fact and make informed lifestyle decisions.

The idea that our society can condemn China for eating dog, and then pop out for a bacon bap, is ludicrous. The petition shouldn’t be aimed at the dog meat industry. It should be a petition for vegetarianism, or no petition at all.

Rachel Powell-Horne

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