China’s summer solstice festival is about to kick off, but one aspect of the festivities has drawn the ire of animal rights activists. That’s because, in addition to liquor and celebration, the festival involves eating dog meat as part of a tradition that started in the 1990s. Last year, at least 10,000 dogs were killed for celebratory feasts, and animal lovers across the globe are calling for an end to the practice, particularly since some claim that dogs used in the feasts are abducted from homes or snatched off of the streets.
Known as the Yulin Summer Solstice Dog Meat Festival, the celebration launches June 21 in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. People in the area have eaten dog meat for centuries, but the festival-goers believe that it is particularly important to eat dog meat because it will bring good luck and health. Activists have protested the festival in the past, and other dog-eating festivals have been banned in other parts of China, but this year there is more attention on the practice than ever.
Officials claim that dogs are raised specifically for the event and no dogs are taken from homes, but others, including an animal right lawyer in China named An Xiang, say that this is untrue and that dogs are taken off of the streets or abducted from homes. On top of that, with no quarantine in place for consuming dog meat, concerns about rabies or other food-borne illnesses have some people calling for an end to the practice in the name of human health.
Supporters say that it is their right to eat dog meat and part of their tradition. Some even say that it is no more cruel than eating beef or pork. The Yulin Municipal People’s Government stepped in and issued a statement, claiming that the festival has never even existed. They say that dog eating is just part of a few individual gatherings and not a widespread celebration, despite activists claim to the contrary.