About five years ago, when I was backpacking through Vietnam, I had one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I was in Sa Pa, a village in the hill country near Vietnam's border with Laos, waiting for one of several buses that would take me into the landlocked land of limestone karsts. I noticed a beautiful German shepherd-like dog across the street from me.
Not 10 seconds after I first locked eyes with him, a man walked up behind the dog and beheaded him with a dull kitchen knife. I didn't watch the whole spectacle, but it couldn't have taken more than a minute. The dog didn't even scream.
As traumatic as it was, the spectacle settled a matter I had long assumed was a racist stereotype: Yes, people in parts of Asia eat dog meat. And while the episode in Sa Pa suggested a sort of discretion with regard to the consumption and harvesting of dog meat in Vietnam, people in other parts of Asia – namely, southern China – are more shameless about it.
The Yulin Dog Meat Eating Festival
Yes, you read that right: A dog meat eating festival. The festival occurs annually, in the city of Yulin in southern China's Guangxi province (which, incidentally, borders Vietnam) on the summer solstice. There's no obvious reason that dog is on the menu for the festival, save for tradition, a fact that makes opponents of the festival (i.e. most of the rest of the world) even more upset about it.
Locals (and even some outsiders) argue that Westerners in particular are hypocritical, as many of them eat the meat of other animals. They believe it's foolish to single out people who eat dogs, simply because much of the world chooses to keep dogs as pets, rather than pigs, cows or chickens.
One interesting fact about the Yulin Dog Meat Eating Festival is that while locals often cite "tradition" as a reason for eating dog, the festival itself only dates back to 2009.
The Impact of Social Media on Eating Dog – Is the End Near?
Whether or not Guangxi residents have a point about the hypocrisy of their critics, and regardless of how long eating dog has been part of their tradition, the attention 2015's Yulin Dog Meat Eating Festival received on social media drew international attention to it, with celebrities and even politicians from all over the world using their platforms to condemn the festival and call for its end.
It's too early to know for sure whether this global pressure will call for the Yulin Dog Meat eating festivals in subsequent years to be canceled, but some in the media believe the festival's days may be numbered. Many cite dramatic reductions in the number of dogs killed: 10,000 in the festival's first years; to 5,000 in 2014; to less than 1,000 in 2015.
The local government has even officially withdrawn its support from the festival, which it originally proudly promoted, under the assumption it would increase tourism to the province. Only time will tell whether the campaigns against the festival will have a long-term impact, but dog lovers around the world are hopeful.