The Yulin Dog Meat Eating Festival

Warning: The material below may offend or upset some readers

Dog Meat
Benjamin Vander Steen via Wikimedia Commons

Let's address the elephant in the room, or the dog as it were: Yes, people in parts of Asia eat dog meat. On the other hand, while the idea of the Asian eating dog isn't any less offensive because it's true, it's important to try and understand the reasons the traditional exists, and why it continues. To do this, a good place to start is a particular dog eating festival in China.

The Yulin Dog Meat Eating Festival

Yes, you read that right: A dog meat eating festival. The dog eating festival occurs annually, in the city of Yulin in southern China's Guangxi province (which 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 the Asian eating dog, 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

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 the 2015 edition of the 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 Dog Eating Festival in 2020

As of 2018, the Yulin Dog Meat Eating Festival (which has been re-named the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival) is now a bi-annual event. No festival took place in 2019, though another is currently scheduled for June 21, 2020.

This decreased frequently follows the local government officially having withdrawn its support from the dog eating 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.

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