Animal rights experts say that rumors of a Chinese government ban on the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, in which thousands of dogs are estimated to be killed, have severely decreased international awareness efforts to save the animals, typically tortured, killed and eaten.
On the eve of the event – which typically begins on the summer solstice, June 21 – there was no evidence that the Chinese government will interfere to stop it, and non-profits working on the ground in Yulin say dog traffickers were not even aware of an alleged ban on their trade.
In an email statement to Breitbart News, the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, which organizes initiatives to save dogs destined for meat trafficking in Asia, says celebrities who had previously aided greatly in promoting awareness of the horrors of the event have gone silent, having heard of the alleged ban.
“With the announcement (from a very large international group) of a supposed ban on dog meat sales the week before the festival – it definitely had a negative effect on the attention brought to the Festival,” the group explained:
Many celebs who normally tweet and post about it have been silent believing that the festival was over, Ricky Gervais being one of them. We have been on the ground all week and there are no big groups there – especially the ones collecting large donations to Stop Yulin. There aren’t even alot of activists there. One group Bo Ai Animal Center is there but she isn’t rescuing dogs this year.
“It’s sad that there isn’t a larger social media presence about it like last year. And we truly believe this is due to the false statement about the ban and also the continued false information being spread to support the original lie,” the group added. “The Festival will not just suddenly come to an end – it was cruel to give people false hope. And many more dogs will die because of it.”
In its statement to Breitbart News, the group added that dog meat vendors they have contacted “never heard of any ban, therefore it had NO effect on the amount of dogs stolen. The only people who ever heard of the ban were foreigners.”
Many of the dogs boiled, dismembered, or skinned alive for consumption are not bred for eating, but pets who were stolen from their family homes. The popularity of the Yulin festival exacerbates the problem of pet dog theft to keep up with demand.
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In previous years, celebrities like Matt Damon and Alicia Silverstone had participated in campaigns to call for an end to the festival. Animal rights groups also swept into the city to oppose the torture and killing of the dogs. In 2014, twelve different animal rights groups from within China alone traveled to Yulin to oppose the consumption of dog meat, which vendors complained lowered sales.
In May, the Chinese government announced that it would ban the sale of dog meat beginning June 15, allegedly placing an up to $14,500 fine on such sales. International animal rights groups announced that government officials had told them they “intended” to ban dog meat sales. On June 15, the day that the ban was allegedly supposed to take effect, local officials told Mandarin-language media that they would not be banning the festival.
Forbes also cited a PETA representative who said that no operatives on the ground have any evidence that that ban on dog meat sales is in effect.
According to Valarie Ianniello and Marc Ching from the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, the Yulin festival is only seven years olds, organized to increase dog meat sales. “The Festival starts on the first day of the summer solstice because of the unfounded belief that eating dog meat cools the body in the summer months,” they explained in an email to Breitbart News.
The two recommend expanding awareness within China through campaigns to expose the horrors of the dog meat trade as the most effective way to end the trade. Without demand from Chinese citizens or tourists, there is no impetus to continue the trade.
“Dogs are unique in the things they do, like sniffing out bombs, or cancer, guiding the blind as they walk, helping vets with PTSD, etc,” they said, “there are a great number of Chinese that visit the US and we need to be welcoming and be open to our differences yet convincing in the changes that should happen. In the end, education and compassion is how anything will change.”
“We have built up quite a large community of people in China who want to end the dog meat trade and advocate for the animals there, which is a good sign of things changing,” they concluded in a statement.