People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) condemned the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival – and the open-air slaughter of animals for food – in a statement to Breitbart News on Monday as “pandemic petri dishes” that perpetuate animal suffering and spread disease.
The notorious Yulin festival, believed to have begun in 2009, occurs every year in the eponymous Chinese city on Summer Solstice, which this year fell on Monday. It typically lasts for ten days and features a host of outdoor butchers offering live dogs for the slaughter, cooked and feasted on in a variety of ways. Lychees, a tropical Asian fruit, serves as a counterweight to the dog flesh to cool down in the summer heat. Animal rights groups have, with varying degrees of success, organized annual campaigns to condemn and outlaw the festival, resulting in the Chinese Communist Party distancing itself from the event, but few concrete measures to actually prevent it from happening.
The Yulin festival received renewed scrutiny last year in the face of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which began in late 2019 in the central city of Wuhan, China. Chinese officials initially blamed an outdoor meat and vegetable market in Wuhan – commonly known as “wet markets” due to the water, blood, and other liquids soaking the ground there – for the initial coronavirus outbreak. A study released in June concluded that as many as 50,000 live animals were available to buy for consumption at the market in question at the initial onset of Wuhan’s coronavirus outbreak.
Beijing has since dropped that theory and claimed, without evidence, that the pandemic is the product of a safety failure at a U.S. Army laboratory, but the global scientific community nonetheless largely agrees that wet markets create ideal venues for the spread of infectious disease.
The World Health Organization (W.H.O.)’s official stance, as stated in a 120-page report published after investigators visited Wuhan, is that the likeliest scenario in which the Chinese coronavirus first spread to humans is through human interaction with an “intermediary” animal species first infected by the virus from its original host. The W.H.O. approved the reopening of wet markets in China in April 2020.
PETA confirmed to Breitbart News on Monday that, despite diminished discussion of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival on Chinese social media platforms, local sources say the event is indeed occurring.
“PETA wishes government pronouncements could always be relied on, but the regulations and the reality often don’t match. Locals have confirmed that the shameful Yulin festival will proceed this year,” PETA Asia Vice President Jason Baker confirmed, just as filthy ‘wet markets’ remain up and running and slaughterhouses continue their bloody business as usual, all because of consumer demand.”
“Only if people stop supporting such places will animals stop being killed in awful ways. We urge everyone to shun all these pandemic petri dishes and not to pay for profound animal suffering,” Baker said. “Dogs suffer beyond imagination in these markets, but we must never forget the pigs, chickens, cows, ducks and other individuals who also experience pain and fear just as we do.”
Sources within communist China have largely remained silent about the festival this year, but media from neighboring Hong Kong have confirmed PETA’s information regarding the continued existence of the event. Am730, a Cantonese-language Hong Kong newspaper, reported Monday the event is proceeding “as usual” but that prices for dog meat were slightly elevated. News18, an Indian media outlet, reported locals had documented at least eight live dog meat stands operating in the heart of the neighborhood hosting the festival, and another wet market with at least 18 live dog stands.
“Some netizens went to rural dog farms to directly attack the live dog trading situation, saying that on the eve of the dog meat festival, ‘business is booming, and the price of local dogs has been rising,'” Am370 reported, conceding that “there is much less news about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival on social platforms such as Weibo and WeChat in China than in previous years.”
Another Hong Kong newspaper, the pro-democracy publication Apple Daily, reported Monday that local Communist Party officials had suspended train service to the neighborhood typically hosting the festival in an attempt to prevent animal rights activists from engaging in what has become an annual tradition of intercepting illicit shipments of dogs and rescuing them from the slaughter.
“Unlike in previous years, animal rights activists from other parts of the country may find it difficult to flood in to rescue dogs, since train service to Yulin was recently halted, local residents said,” Apple Daily reported. “Officials reportedly gave no reason for halting the trains.”
Chinese government reports denied that the regime had suspended train service. Usage of mass transit in China relies on the Party’s “social credit” system, however – which awards scores to every citizen based on loyalty to the party – meaning that known animal rights activists may simply have their scores dropped too low to have the ability to purchase train tickets.
Animal rights groups have documented at least one successful rescue this year. Humane Society International confirmed the interception this week of 68 dogs on a truck heading into Yulin by local Chinese activists.
“Activists flagged down a truck packed with dogs on the way to Yulin’s slaughterhouses and convinced the driver to hand over the dogs. When the truck halted, the activists found 68 panting and exhausted dogs crammed tightly in rusty cages, suffering from extreme heat and without food or water,” the organization noted. ” As rescuers approached, the otherwise lethargic dogs began to show signs of typical household pets, such as reaching out their paws to shake hands. Most of them looked like dogs who were stolen from their families.”
China nominally banned the breeding of dogs as livestock last year by publishing a list of designated legal species to breed for food and excluding dogs. At the time, PETA explained in a statement to Breitbart News that the legality of eating dog meat remained “unclear” because “the government official making the announcement explicitly stated that the livestock list will not affect the dog-meat trade.”
The technical outlawing of dog breeding for food also appears to have fueled the mass theft of dogs from their families in homes where they were kept as pets. The Humane Society noted that the dogs rescued this week exhibited behaviors, like handing out a paw to humans, that indicated they were house pets and not strays. Apple Daily reported on Tuesday of the arrest of at least one individual in Sichuan province, that had suspicious meat in his freezer and live dogs at home, apparently to sell at the festival. At least one of those dogs was wearing a collar, a sign he or she was stolen from their family. The man, identified as Zhang Jiu, was reportedly suspected of preparing to sell the dogs as meat at the Yulin festival. Zhang reportedly had 56 dogs on his property at the time of his arrest.