Yang Xiaoyun, a 65-year-old retired schoolteacher, traveled 1,500 across China to the Yulin Dog Festival, where she bought 100 dogs with $1,000 and saved them from being dismembered alive, cooked, and served with lychees to celebrate the summer solstice.
Yang, the Agence France-Presse reports, has been an animal rights activist for years and runs a dog shelter in Tianjin, 1,500 miles away from Yulin. She made the voyage to Yulin and spent her money on 100 dogs for 7000 yuan, which she will now transport back the shelter, named “Common Home for All” and founded in 1995.
According to various Chinese articles on Yang translated in part by animal website The Dodo, Yang made the voyage last year, as well, and was then able to save 400 dogs with $24,000, mostly in donations sent to her from supporters. Her passion for animal rights activism, the article explains, began after she lost her husband in 1995, and began to adopt stray dogs, to which she says she “owes a debt of gratitude.” She eventually sold two properties to buy a building to house all the dogs she adopted, causing a rift with her son, who “disagreed with how much she was sacrificing to rescue the animals.” He reportedly eventually came to be at peace with the decision and helps his mother in the endeavor.
Animal rights activism is growing in popularity in China, a nation that The Dodo estimates eats 10 million dogs a year, and around 10,000 dogs in the Yulin festival alone. There is no known dog farming industry in China, meaning dogs that are eaten are strays or pets stolen from homes for food. This year, Yulin faced heavy celebrity activism, particularly on Twitter, where opponents of the festival posted photos highlighting dogs being burned alive, cut limb from limb, skinned alive, and placed in tiny cages in large numbers using the hashtag #StopYulin2015. Footage from the festival shows haggling for various live dogs before they are killed and butchered for their buyers.
The festival, which was ongoing on Sunday and Monday, received enough opposition that Yulin government officials issued a statement distancing the city from the festival, claiming it is not an official government event.
“Some residents of Yulin have the habit of coming together to eat lychees and dog meat during the summer solstice,” it stated, “The ‘summer solstice lychee and dog meat festival’ is a commercial term, the city has never [officially] organised a ‘dog meat festival.'” The statement also urged tourists to visit Yulin and see the city for themselves before criticizing it on social media.