China’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival has commenced despite protests by Hollywood celebrities and petitions signed by millions worldwide condemning the event. Thousands of dogs are expected to be killed for human consumption.

Also called the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, the event takes place every year on summer solstice. Despite the efforts of Chinese animal rights groups – including a petition that has garnered more than 11 million signatures – the festival kicked off as planned on Tuesday.

dog meat festival

AFP earlier reported that campaigners’ efforts may have backfired, and that protests have given more publicity to the festival and attracted more people to visit the town.

Surveys have shown that 64 per cent of Chinese people wants this festival to end, state media Xinhua reported.

A group of animal rights activists gathered before the Chinese Embassy in Poland, Warsaw last Saturday – just a day before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the country for his state visit.

Protesters held signs saying “Cruelty! Not Tradition! Stop Yulin” and demanded China address its animal rights issues, Apple Daily reported.

dog meat festival

At the largest dog meat market in Yulin, Dong Kou, hundreds of eager customers made their way to stalls to purchase dog meat, while foreign reporters were refused entry by local residents and guards at the market, according to Apple Daily.

Other visitors to the market, however, including dog lovers such as Yang Xiaoyun, purchased the dogs in order to rescue them. According to Global Times, she was charged higher prices by the vendors.

‘Stop the violence’

Dozens of Hollywood Stars including Jaoquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Matt Damon and others have also given their voices to the cause, calling for an end to the festival in a video by Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation.

In the video, founder of the animal rights organisation Marc Ching said: “In the dog meat industry, this trade is built upon this belief that if you torture or abuse the animal it makes the meat tastes better, that it gives health benefits to whoever eats it – whether or not you think that it is something to be eaten or on the menu – cruelty, and torture, and violence, it’s wrong.”

“Stop the violence,” the celebrities said. “Together, we can do this.”

YouTube video

British celebrity Lisa Vanderpump, co-founder of the Stop Yulin Forever campaign, has also teamed up with singer Leona Lewis in recording a song against the festival.

According to state media Xinhua News Agency, the custom of eating dog meat dates back 400 to 500 years in China as a means to alleviate summer heat. However, the Yulin dog meat festival only began in 2009.

YouTube video

In 2014, the Yulin government refrained from interfering in the festival despite strong public opposition, saying that the event was hosted by private businesses without official backing.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.