Thursday, 24. July 2014
09. 06. 14. - 16:00
Pressure is growing in China to outlaw a barbaric frenzy of eating dog meat at a week-long dog meat festival that takes place every summer where an estimated 10,000 dogs are killed to make a variety of canine related dishes.
The annual festival due to take place in Yulin City in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on June 21 has seen an unprecedented amount of criticism this year, not just from animal-rights activists but also leading Chinese lawyers, celebrities and even government food safety experts who say it should be banned.
And the demand seems to be gaining momentum, especially among those who say it presents a bad image of China to the rest of the world when international media come to document the crowds of people moving among the markets. Along the streets, dogs are kept in tiny cages and dog carcasses are seen hanging skinned and ready for sale to canine gourmets.
The criticism has been given further impetus this year through social media with Chinese pop stars, such as Chen Kun and Yang Mi, protesting against the barbaric festival on their accounts on Sina Weibo, a popular micro-blogging service.
"Most of the discussion is centred on the emotional or sentimental aspect of eating dogs," said Zheng Zhishan, a program officer with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "But it is also important to look at the food safety aspect."
Liu Lang, director of the Beijing Small Animal Veterinary Association, said dog meat is not listed for supervision by the food quarantine and inspection authorities, which creates safety risks in the processing and eating of dog meat.
The Ministry of Agriculture issued a quarantine regulation on dogs and cats last year, requiring laboratory quarantine for the animals before they are turned into food because of the risk of infection from diseases, for example rabies.
"But in practice, this regulation is not well enforced," Liu admitted, adding that as a result there was very little impact on the trade from the regulation.
Liu said the laboratory quarantine would cost 200 yuan (18 GBP) to 300 yuan (28 GBP) per dog which would put it out of the price range of many dog gourmets.
He said: "Local residents cannot afford that price if all the dogs eaten at the festival went through such a quarantine."
Activists say that as well as being inhumane, the high demand for dog meat created by the festival was encouraging the abduction of strays and pets. Supporters of the festival however insist that the canines being consumed at the dinner table were raised by local dog farms for the purpose of being eaten.
An Xiang, an animal rights lawyer in the capital Beijing, said that according to his research and investigations, there are no such dog farms. All the dogs were raised in households where they were fed on scraps or from scavenging, or were simply abducted from the streets.
So far however locals are resisting the demand for change, and Wei Zhengde, a 28-year-old Yulin resident, said: "It is our tradition and our right to eat dog meat. If we are cruel and brutal, what about those who eat pork, beef and chicken?"
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