China: Yulin dog meat festival begins despite concerns
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Many of the animals are kept in harrowing conditions before being slaughtered for food during the 10-day celebration held in Yulin, in China’s south-west Guangxi region. Some of the dogs are boiled alive or beaten to death as sellers ready them for the dinner table. The festival, which attracts thousands of visitors every year, began earlier this week despite attempts by Beijing’s government to clamp down on the dog meat trade following the pandemic.
Carrie, 33, an animal welfare campaigner, tweeted yesterday: “The torture of these dogs and puppies is sickening,” and described photos of dogs crammed into tiny cages in Yulin as “the thing of nightmares”.
The Johnsons own a Jack Russell cross, Dilyn, and the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The British public would rightly never support the slaughter and consumption of dogs.
“We have robust laws in place to protect the welfare of dogs in this country. It is already illegal here.”
He added: “We have no evidence that this type of meat is being sold or consumed in the UK.
“We are confident the current position in this country sends a clear message that the slaughter and consumption of dogs or cats will never be comfortable.”
At the G7 Summit in Cornwall, Mr Johnson, 57, called for more global co-operation to combat so-called zoonotic diseases, which spread from animals to humans.
It follows suspicions the Covid pandemic may have originated in a market in Wuhan, where wildlife is sold for food.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “Zoonotic disease is something we are very conscious of and we are investing money to address the risk posed by zoonotic diseases at an early
stage to prevent them becoming future pandemics.”
Animal rights activists often travel to Yulin in an attempt to save the dogs from their grisly fate by buying them from festival sellers.
Writing exclusively in the Daily Express today, Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns blasts the festival.
Ms Jenkyns, 47, who is launching a podcast, Animal Matters, to highlight welfare issues, says: “The brutality involved – from the moment these pets are snatched from their families to the method of slaughter – is truly horrific.”
She has urged Mr Johnson’s administration and other governments to “work together and stamp out this sickening trade for good”.
Figures suggest about 10 million dogs were killed for human consumption in China last year.
Emily Wilson, UK head of campaigns at global animal welfare charity Four Paws, said: “It is shocking that while the world is still in the grips of a global pandemic caused by a zoonotic
disease, a festival with the slaughter and consumption of dog meat is continuing.
“The dog meat trade has notoriously been associated with being a breeding ground for disease due to the poor levels of cleanliness at the slaughterhouses, restaurants and markets, all of which pose a huge human health risk.
“But it is not just about human health. All aspects of the trade, from catching, transporting to slaughtering, involve unacceptable levels of cruelty and suffering, making it one of the most pressing companion animal concerns of our times.”
She added: “Despite years of speaking out against Yulin by Four Paws and countless other NGOs [non-governmental organisations], little change has been achieved.
“While Four Paws has been working tirelessly across south-east Asia and has been fundamental in closing slaughterhouses and lobbying national governments to implement legislation to outlaw the consumption of dog meat, ‘festivals’ such as Yulin continue.
“It goes on even in the wake of the Chinese government indicating that dog meat should not be consumed.” Ms Wilson said more than a million people have joined calls to protect dogs and cats suffering “incomprehensible levels of cruelty at every stage of the capture and slaughter” since Four Paws launched a petition calling for an end to the wildlife trade.
China’s communist government is drawing up new laws to ban the wildlife trade and protect pets – and campaigners hope this year’s Yulin festival will be the last.
In April, Shenzhen became the first city in China to ban the consumption of dogs and other cities are expected to follow its example.
China’s agriculture ministry has also decided to classify dogs as pets rather than livestock, although it remains unclear how that will affect Yulin’s trade.
Peter Li, Humane Society International’s China policy specialist, said: “I hope Yulin will change, not only for the sake of the animals but also for the health and safety of its people.
“Allowing mass gatherings to trade in and consume dog meat in crowded markets and restaurants in the name of a festival poses a significant public health risk.”
Zhang Qianqian, an animal rights activist who was in Yulin on Saturday, believes it is only a matter of time before the dog meat festival is banned.
She said: “From what we understand from our conversations with meat sellers, leaders have said the consumption of dog meat won’t be allowed in future.
“But banning dog meat consumption is going to be hard and will take some time.”
Chinese authorities have begun reassessing animal welfare, following reports that coronavirus originated in horseshoe bats before crossing into humans in a market in Wuhan.
Its government has now vowed to ban the trade in wildlife for food.
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