Reviled China fest prompts dog-eating debate

The World
Stop the Yulin.

A yearly dog-eating festival in China has sparked outrage worldwide. But are our buttons being pushed?

China's Yulin festival, during which approximately 10,000 dogs are cooked and eaten, is a summertime feature in the country's Guanxi province. In recent years, the festival has been castigated in social media. The hashtag #StopYulin2015 is gaining traction on Twitter, with users from the UK, the US and Australia being especially vocal. Countless heart-wrenching pictures and outraged messages are being posted. 

The protests go beyond social media. One not-for-profit organization, Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, is also fighting to stop the festival. The US-based organization has launched a petition calling for the shutdown of the Yulin festival, raising over 200,000 signatures. Its YouTube video on the subject has been viewed more than 130,000 times.

The case to spare the dogs: Rabies outbreaks in the city put many people at risk; the festival exposes young people to violence; and the dog meat is not a true local culinary feature.

The animal protection group estimates 90 percent of the dogs killed in Yulin are stolen from urban households and farmers. Many are found still with their collars on.

Slate's William Saletan wrote a 2002 essay questioning the revulsion of many on this topic. "The value of an animal," he argues, "depends on how you treat it."

"If you befriend it, it's a friend. If you raise it for food, it's food. This relativism is more dangerous than the absolutism of vegetarians or even of thoughtful carnivores. You can abstain from meat because you believe that the mental capacity of animals is too close to that of humans. You can eat meat because you believe that it isn't. Either way, you're using a fixed standard. But if you refuse to eat only the meat of "companion" animals … you're saying that the morality of killing depends on habit or even whim."

John D. Sutter makes a similar point in his 2014 CNN opinion column, entitled "The argument for eating dog." He argues that though the cruelty of the dog meat trade should undoubtedly shock and sadden, the fact that people are eating dog meat should not — unless you are a vegetarian or vegan.

"If we're appalled by the dog trade in Southeast Asia, we should be similarly appalled by some of the conditions that exist in factory farms in the United States," Sutter states. He adds that eating dogs in the United States actually might be helpful, since it would cut down on the ecological problem of disposing the about 1.2 million dogs euthanized every year throughout the country.

"If we think dogs shouldn't be eaten — like ever, regardless of how clean the trade is and how quick the kill — then maybe we should think about the other animals we eat, and if and why we don't feel the same about them,'' Sutter writes. 

Readers, what do you think about the festival and this issue? Let us know in our comments section.

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