Dog Meat Still 'Easy to Buy' As Officials Deny Ban in China's Yulin: Residents

china-dog-meat-festival-crop.jpg Caged dogs at the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival in Guangxi province, in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

Dog meat is "still available" in the southern Chinese city of Yulin, whose annual dog-meat festival has been the target of international campaigns by animal rights activists, despite a proclaimed ban in the run-up to the festival, local residents told RFA.

While local officials have been walking up and down markets ahead of the June 21 festival warning vendors not to display the meat openly, it is still possible to buy dog meat in the Guangxi province-based city, local residents said.

"The authorities can't stop people from displaying a phone number so that anyone who wants to buy dog meat can just go and pick it up at a different stall, or at someone's home," Yulin resident Chen Chaoyuan said.

"I don't think that they can really control this, because even though there are blank spots on the stalls [where dog meat would have been], there are phone numbers, so that everyone knows where to go to get it."

The official website of the Yulin municipal government carried no public announcement of the purported ban when visited by RFA on Thursday.

And the Yulin municipal branch of the ruling Chinese Communist Party told the Beijing Express newspaper on Thursday that the government couldn't ban something it hadn't started.

"This is a local, traditional custom, which was never led by the government, and therefore there was no ban," the branch propaganda team said. "As for the so-called ban on trading in dog-meat, we have never heard of such a policy, neither did we publicize it."

Local tradition

Chen said local people eat dog meat on a regular basis, not just during the festival, so the June 15-21 ban will have little impact on the trade in dogs for meat, which has been the target of animal rights campaigners.

Yulin resident Su Shaoliang said that while he does eat the meat, a properly enforced government ban wouldn't make much difference to his life.

"It's pretty common to eat dog meat in southern China, but if the rest of the country or the world thinks that it's not a good thing to do, I can just as easily not eat it," Su said.

He said the Yulin dog-meat festival is a fairly recent invention in the Guangxi region.

"We never used to have it, and then gradually, there it was," Su said. "I don't even know how that happened."

And Yulin resident Tian Aijun said the meat is gradually becoming less popular among his friends as it gains a reputation for being associated with animal cruelty.

"Cruelty is cruelty, but I don't think it has much to do with what you eat," Tian said. "I think they will naturally stop doing this [under the influence of] many things, including a sense of what is civilized."

But animal lover Li Guijun from the central province of Hunan said the practice should be banned immediately on animal rights grounds.

"Our country really has a long way to go when it comes to the protection of animal rights," Li said. "I think an outright ban on the eating of dog-meat would be difficult, though, but this festival is ... really too barbaric."

"We should perhaps look at it from a cultural perspective ... Chinese people have historically always eaten dog-meat, so we will have to take it step by step," she said.

International image

Animal rights campaigners this year submitted a petition to the Yulin municipal government bearing 1.1 million signatures in protest at the festival.

Recent opinion polls have shown that more than 60 percent of Chinese people believe that the Yulin dog-meat festival has tarnished China's international image.

Meanwhile, French retailer giant Carrefour announced on Thursday it has removed dog meat products from two of its supermarket chains in China, following an outcry from the animal rights campaign group, Animal Asia.

The group says it has been asking the company to do this since 2012. Carrefour's offerings to Chinese customers included "Fankuai turtle-juiced dog meat," selling for 136 yuan (U.S. $20), and packs of dried dog meat selling for 25.60 yuan (U.S. $3.76) apiece.

As many as 10 million dogs are killed every year for the purpose of consumption in China, according to the Humane Society International.

Reported by Tam Lee for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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