In Yulin, Guangxi, China, thousands of dogs are being tortured and killed to be sold as food at the world’s largest dog meat festival, taking place this week.
The annual event has received widespread criticism in recent years but has been difficult to shut down.
One of the reasons the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival continues is cultural relativism. After all, Westerners eat cows, which are sacred in Indian culture.
In the United States, for example, cows and other livestock are subject to inhumane conditions that shock and terrify the animals, just like the dogs who suffer in China and in other countries throughout Asia. However, the torture inflicted on dogs at festivals like these is intentional and believed to bring quality to the resulting flesh due to the release of the animals’ stress hormones.
As we reported last year:
“In some Asian cultures, torture against animals is believed by those who inflict it to produce medicinal qualities in the meat because the torture stresses the dog out, prompting its body to produce adrenaline. Often, the dogs are tortured in front of other caged ones, intentionally, to further stress the caged dogs before they are tortured, killed, and ultimately eaten. “
Marc Ching is an activist who dedicated his life to ending practices like these after learning that countless dogs are brutally tortured before slaughter. Ching discussed his experiences with Anti-Media last year after he returned from the 2016 Yulin festival:
“Anything you can think of, they’re doing. Smashing feet with hammers and just letting them suffer. I’ve seen them poke out eyeballs and cut their ears off — mass mutilation, just hanging them, cutting their heads off with machetes.”
Ching, who runs a holistic pet supply store called the PetStaurant in Sherman Oaks, California, began traveling to Yulin when he heard of the conditions there. He has seen dogs (and cats) burned alive, boiled, and beaten with bats. Now he travels to countries like China, Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia to dissuade those inflicting the torture to change their ways.
As we reported after interviewing him extensively at his Petstaurant:
“Though Ching started by directly purchasing dogs, he shifted strategies amid concerns that doing so provided incentive to slaughterhouse owners to keep torturing and killing the dogs. If people can get paid for torturing animals, some animal rights groups reason, they will continue to do it.
“Ching now attempts to negotiate openly and directly with the slaughterhouse owners by paying them to change their practices rather than purchasing the dogs outright.”
In one instance, he convinced a Cambodian dog slaughterer to start a noodle restaurant, instead, offering to fund six months of the man’s new venture in order to prevent the torture and death that would have occurred otherwise.
Indeed, Ching told us he was able to convince six of twelve slaughterhouses at the Yulin festival last year, rescuing 1,000 dogs in the process. Many of the dogs were transferred to shelters around the world, some of them ultimately making their way to Los Angeles.
He has been live streaming from Yulin this week — the annual festival officially begins Tuesday — and reporting his experiences to his nearly 167,000 Facebook followers. Much of his strategy has been to intercept trucks attempting to enter Yulin.
On June 18, he and his team were able to rescue a horde of animals who were being clubbed and skinned alive. Ching said 40 cages had been opened, adding that the animals were transported to a quarantined area. “The transport just arrived at our shelter in Changsha,” he wrote. “These dogs are in critical condition, and need support in order to stay alive.” At least four were discovered to have microchips — proof they were pets. He has previously reported finding animals with collars, further evidence the dogs are stolen and previously had homes.
A day before, they conducted a similar operation despite difficult circumstances. Some of the dogs were already dead. Two had microchips.
“The intercept was intense and frustrating,” he recounted. “A situation met immediately with aggression – Chinese activists trying the take the load before they reached the edge of Yulin.
“In the end the stand-off broke, with activist numbers overpowering the driver. All the dogs have been loaded onto our transport and are safe. On route to our shelter in Changsha.”
Though he has had success, authorities tend to side with the traders and slaughterhouse owners. On Monday, he posted about what happened when he and his team blocked a different truck carrying dogs and cats to the festival:
“The situation is tense. Police are working with the traders, and against us in regards to helping the animals, and successfully taking over the truck…Police and traders blocked our way, and let the truck drive off with the dogs and cats screaming for liberation.”
Due to the widespread publicity Yulin has received — and according to Ching, false reporting — many have been led to believe the practice was banned, or at least curtailed. Because of that, he has lamented, there is far less awareness regarding the ongoing festival than there has been in previous years. In a Facebook post, he reported that one trader said demand for dogs this year is four times what it was last year. While recording undercover at one slaughterhouse this week, he noted that at least 2,000 dogs have already been killed.
Though the situation seems dire, and deeply-ingrained culture often seems impossible to permeate, Ching says he wouldn’t be able to do the work he does without the help of local activists. He has stressed how vital they are to changing perceptions and challenging long-held views about the validity of these practices.
As he told us last year: