As someone who has travelled many places in my time I have learned a unique skill. I have acquired the ability to practice cultural sensitivity to the best of my ability. Cultural sensitivity is when you separate your own feelings because it is not your culture therefore you should not tell others in their culture what is right or wrong. I have tried to remain as sensitive as possible but for the Dog Meat Festival it has been impossible for me to remain completely impartial and without opinion or judgement. Let me state now for the record that the following is my own feelings and opinions as well as the feelings and opinions of those I have spoken to.
Dogs are animals. This is a fact not a statement. Throughout history man domesticated dogs to work for them and later to be their companion. China was no different. Man and dog created a bond. They respected dogs and cared greatly for them. So it might make someone wonder how dogs would later become another meat option on a menu. Poverty and famine is the largest factor in dogs transition, for some small regions in China, from friend to food. When families were starving they chose their survival over their four legged friends. It was during these hard times that these new attitudes developed.
Now I beg you not to stereotype all Chinese as dog eaters. China is an extremely large country and the areas in which dog meat is considered acceptable to eat is rather small. This is not a common practice with most Chinese people. Eating dog is most common in a few places in the southern most part of China as well as a handful of cities in the north of China. Most Chinese have wouldn't consider eating a dog. With that in mind let's focus on one of the provinces and its city that not only has a high percentage of dog meat trade but also hosts the annual Dog Meat Festival.
Guangxi is a beautiful province in the Southwest of China. It's unique mountain range and colorful history pull visitors in for a one of a kind experience. Looking out the window of the bus at the stretches of rice fields which scale up the mountain like thin stairways. One would never imagine the annual festival that takes place in the summer on June 20th, brings in another type of traveller. There is a city in this beautiful province that is infamous among many young Chinese as well as foreign visitors. In this city of Yulin a cruel tradition takes place every year since 2010 in which dogs are slaughtered for their meat.
Being that many readers have never been to China and only know what the farm industry looks like in the west there are many differences in the treatment of livestock and the respect for their living conditions and comfort. Imagine now a cage where the dogs have been stuffed in.packing the cages in to maximize number of dogs available to slaughter with minimal space taken. There is no concern for the animals comfort or well being. They are looked at as a good to be sold and killed for money. For many of us who have had or still have a dog for a pet seeing this will over flow us with an intense anger as well as disgust. Their sad eyes full of fear, sadness or complete lack of hope. Perhaps some already aware of their fate. 10-15,000 dogs and cats are sold and slaughtered for their meat during this festival.
Where do these dogs come from? This part is the hardest part for many to accept. While there is a good amount of the dogs there that come from farms where they were raised for their meat and not as pets there is also a good portion of family pets who have been stolen off the street and from apartment complexes and sold to meat traders. You can see the. In their cages with the collars and tags. Confused and frightened as their entire life of being a loved part of a family has been cruelly stolen from them.
Many Chinese and foreigners have begun to fight to free these dogs from the terrible fate that awaits them as they are brought from all over Guangxi as well as neighboring province of Guangdong to Yulin to be slaughtered. One of these volunteers spoke about their mission. They want to not only save those dogs who are going to be killed and find them homes but their main mission is to have this festival banned. To be fully successful there would be no more eating of dog meat whatsoever. While this dream may seem far fetched at this moment with little support being shown by local authority it still is what they and many are fighting for.
In a recent victory, 331 lives were saved. A truck carrying cages full to the brim of dogs was spotted on the road. Volunteers called the police and the truck was detained for not having the proper papers for proof of quarantine for the dogs on the truck. The local volunteers stayed up all night never leaving the truck to make sure that they could get these dogs to a shelter as soon as possible. Once the driver of the dog their renounced the dogs the volunteers were able to step in and quickly get them to safety and begin the long process of treatment as well as searching for homes for the lives that were now given a second chance.
Social media in a China is now becoming a huge platform for raising not only awareness but also help. Groups are created where you can join and donate money, your home for foster oruse friends list to help these dogs have a chance at life by posting about fosters needing homes or shelters needing volunteers and supplies.
For those in China, adopting a dog who was nearly a meal is a great way to show support and help save lives. That of course is not possible for you. If you want to help make a difference than be a voice for those who don't have one. If you plan on visiting China don't support tourism in places where they do these things to our furry friends. Together we can stop this violence.
Written by Harvey Shi