In Yulin, Guangxi province, thousands of dogs will be brutally slaughtered this week. This is because of the barbaric 10-day dog meat festival commencing on Monday.
Despite campaigners seeking to appeal to the Chinese Government, the hope of a last-minute reprieve was already too late for many, with photographs emerging of traders selling slaughtered dogs before official proceedings had even begun.
As we look on every summer in disgust at this abhorrent ‘festival’, it’s worth considering that this is just a snapshot into the dog and cat meat trade which is commonplace both in China and elsewhere.
Last year, the animal welfare organisation Four Paws produced a report to highlight the extent of this abhorrent trade, focusing on the countries of Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam, where an estimated total of over 9 million dogs and over 1 million cats are killed each year.
With many initially snatched from the streets or stolen from families, dogs and cats are often then crammed together in small cages, transported hundreds of miles away from their homes, and then kept in a large holding area, for days or weeks, depending on the demand.
Throughout the long journeys which these animals endure, dogs often fight due to the distress that they’re under, or left crushed due to the weight of the other dogs which they share the confined space with.
Prior to sale, force-feeding has also been witnessed, particularly in Vietnam, to boost the animal’s weight and the ultimate price that they’re sold for.
When it comes to their slaughter, these animals are killed in some of the most horrific ways imaginable, in full view of the other animals who can merely stand by, watch on, and wait their turn.
Drowning, hanging and torching are all methods deployed to kill these animals, with dogs boiled alive or bundled into a sack and being beaten to death also common methods of slaughter.
As someone who campaigns actively to promote animal welfare standards both in the UK and abroad, this trade and the 10-day event in Yulin sickens me to the bottom of my stomach.
The brutality involved – from the moment these pets are snatched from their families to the method of slaughter - is truly horrific.
Despite the tragic numbers outlined above, it’s important to note that the consumption of dog and cat meat is an activity of a minority, with an average of fewer than 10% of people regularly consuming dog meat in both Indonesia and Cambodia.
Furthermore, as time progresses, there is a growing local opposition to the dog and cat meat trade throughout parts of South East Asia, with pet ownership becoming increasingly common, and the younger generation becoming more vocal against the trade.
But, as we slowly emerge from the covid-19 pandemic, it would be negligent not to also highlight the public safety risk, which is a result of those who choose to consume this meat and who are involved in this trade.
With the trade involving extensive movement of dogs and cats with an unknown health status, it poses a significant increased risk of zoonotic bacteria and diseases.
Furthermore, whilst countries in the Caribbean and Latin America have demonstrated a 90% reduction of human and canine rabies, in much of the Asian region canine rabies remains endemic in large parts. The continuation of the dog and cat meat trade for human consumption, will likely undermine any rabies control programme that takes place.
In addition to the above, it is also important to consider the environment in which these animals are slaughtered. With dogs and cats often butchered near to each other, displayed in the marketplace to viewing customers, and with a complete neglect for any recognisable hygiene practice – this unsanitary concoction within these marketplaces will arguably lead to yet another zoonotic disease.
Over the last few years Four Paws has done excellent work to try to bring an end to this trade through government collaboration, supporting local stray animal care programmes, rescues and raising further awareness of the trade.
As a nation of animal lovers, we are leading the way in many areas within the remit of animal welfare. However, it’s imperative that Governments globally work together and stamp out this sickening trade for good, for both public safety and animal welfare alike.