A Chinese city’s dog meat festival is drawing its annual allotment of outrage

Dogs awaiting slaughter in Yulin in 2014.
Dogs awaiting slaughter in Yulin in 2014.
Image: AP Images for Humane Society International
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

As summer solstice approaches, a familiar story is coming out of China. For the past few years, animal rights activists in China and around the world have protested the Yulin dog festival, in which thousands of dogs are slaughtered and eaten. Because the dog meat trade is not heavily regulated, it’s hard to know how many dogs are actually slaughtered, but estimates are in the thousands.

The issue of the dog consumption trade in China has been a controversial one for a while. In 2011 an autumn festival (paywall) in which people in a eastern China people slaughtered and ate dogs was cancelled. Last year, a group of 17 people in the eastern Zhejiang province were accused of poisoning, stealing, and butchering dogs, and selling them to restaurants.

International activists began protesting the Yulin festival in southern China in earnest in 2013, and by working with local activists, had some effect in creating a more “subdued” festival. Protests continued last year, as the local government distanced itself from the festival and activists bought dogs to save them from slaughter.

Dogs are becoming more popular as pets among China’s growing middle and upper classes, which might partially account for the backlash against these festivals within the country, the Guardian notes.

This year, British celebrities like actor Ricky Gervais and singer Leona Lewis have become involved in the advocacy efforts with a #StopYulin2015 social media campaign. Gervais’ outspoken tweets have gotten a lot of media attention.

Though Gervais has claimed along with other advocates that the dogs are sometimes skinned or boiled alive, it’s unclear whether this is true. Either way, count on a similar outburst of outrage about a year from now.