What is The Yulin Dog Meat Festival?

It’s June and I cannot stop thinking about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.

What is The Yulin Dog Meat Festival?
Batya Erickson
January 30, 2023

It’s June and I cannot stop thinking about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, which occurs at the end of the month, coinciding with the Summer Solstice. 

At Yulin, located in Southern China, thousands of dogs are crammed into tiny cages. They are frightened, dehydrated, and confused. They are traumatized as the other dogs are bludgeoned to death before their very eyes by traders. Their meat is then served to tourists visiting Yulin for the festival. 

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival has gotten a lot more attention and media coverage over the last few years. Animal welfare activists and animal lovers alike are protesting the killing and eating of dogs in Asian countries, and believe that this is no way for a companion animal to live out its short life.

Here are some facts about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and the eating of dog meat in general in China. This information was summarized from Animal Welfare in China by Dr. Peter Li.

  • In 2010, the Yulin dog meat festival was started by dog meat traders and targeted tourists. 
  • Yulin is located in the south of China, in the Guangxi region.
  • Thousands of dogs are slaughtered in public places. In one instance, dogs were killed near a school, in the presence of children.
  • Eating of dogs and cats is legal in China, however, the dogs being traded are typically obtained through unlawful means. There are no dog farms in China, so dogs are often beloved pets stolen by traders from their homes. This makes their deaths even more tragic. 

  • The eating of dog meat in China is a subculture, not unlike the wet market activities in Wuhan we heard so much about in the past few years.. Most people in China do not consume dog meat on a daily basis, if ever.
  • Based on multiple surveys, Humane Society International (HSI) discovered that dog meat traders target patrons of restaurants and professionals. The surveys showed that, contrary to popular belief, more urban people ate dog meat than rural people, educated people ate it more often than the less educated, and dog meat is more popular in northern China than in the south. 
  • Dog meat is not something prepared at home but rather is a product marketed to urban people.
  • The number of dogs killed per year is unknown, but estimated to be in the millions every year. 
  • The main concern with the dog meat trade is employment; local officials in Yulin were under pressure to eliminate poverty and saw the festival as a way to boost tourism and increase revenue. 
  • The people who defend the dog meat trade justify it by saying that it is a cultural dish. However, the real driver of the trade is to reduce poverty and create jobs for locals. 

Although the Yulin Dog Meat Festival is currently underway this year, there is hope. Many organizations are targeting the meat trade, rescue efforts, education, and advocacy. Huge rescue efforts are being made to save dogs from a horrible fate, and adopt them out to loving homes. We have our work cut out for us, but every day we are getting closer to a kinder and more ethical world for our animal friends.