This week, millions of dog lovers find their attention drawn to China. Despite controversy within China and abroad, the southern city of Yulin is holding its annual dog meat festival. Thousands of dogs will be slaughtered and cooked, but thanks to one retired schoolteacher, a few at least will get to live out their natural lives.
In the middle of the outrage, which becomes more intense as more Chinese own dogs as pets instead of labor or stock animals, a 65-year-old woman named Yang Xiaoyun has become a hero to those who oppose the festival. Xiaoyun travelled about 1,500 miles from her home in Tianjin to Yulin, where she spent 7,000 Yuan (approximately $1,126) to buy 100 dogs. Xiaoyun, a vocal animal rights advocate, is taking the dogs home to live with her.
This is not an unusual gesture for Xiaoyun. She has already sold her home and converted it into a farm where she houses over 1,500 dogs and 200 cats who didn’t have other homes. As the video below notes, the conditions at Xiaoyun’s farm are far from ideal; the shelter is cramped and spare, and she has spent herself so deeply into debt caring for them that she often has trouble feeding the animals or herself.
Her trip to Yulin won’t end the festival; the merchants there make money whether the dogs are butchered or not. But it at least makes the difference between life and death for 100 dogs.
In the meantime, activists worldwide continue to speak out against the festival. While the Chinese government officially disapproves of dog meat, there are no laws specifically banning it. Activists have been fighting back on the basis of health laws and claims that the dogs themselves were stolen. Adam Parascandola, director of animal cruelty issues at the Humane Society, isssued a statement to the press saying, “Many of these animals are stolen pets, and most of the dog meat trucks coming in are in total breach of China’s very clear laws on animals for human consumption. How much longer can China simply allow the Yulin authorities to flout the law like this?”
The group Animals Asia also says that the animals sold as meat are largely stolen. “Our exhaustive investigation covered 15 cities in eight provinces in northeast, southern, and central China, where dog eating is most prevalent,” the group said in a statement. “The dogs farms located and visited were found to be farming dogs on a very small scale nowhere near large enough to supply the country’s appetite for dog meat.”
To keep track of current commentary about the dog meat festival in China, try following the tag #StopYulin2015 on Twitter.
Read more efforts to stop the dog meat trade on Dogster: