Scout, an adorable puppy destined to be killed and eaten at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, in Guangxi, China, was bought from a vendor, and saved from his fate by animal activists.
The June 21 festival, which is regarded as a local custom to mark the summer solstice, consists of people filling the streets eating dog meat and lychee, and drinking hard liquor. “Each June in recent years, more than 10,000 dogs were slaughtered for the festival as tourists flooded the streets to enjoy the feasting,” wrote the South China Morning Post.
Dogs who are sold as meat arrive in Yulin crammed in narrow cages and stacked on big trucks during transports of as much as seven hundred miles, leaving the dogs sick, dehydrated, and sometimes dead.
Animal welfare advocates estimate that as many as one in ten of the dogs traded for meat in China are stolen pets. According to research carried out over a year at Yulin’s dog meat market, released by the Guangdong-based animal rights NGO Best Volunteer Centre, the city had more than a hundred slaughterhouses, processing between thirty and a hundred dogs a day. “We believe 99 percent of these dogs in Yulin were stolen from other provinces and transported to Yulin illegally, instead of being raised at legal dog farms,” said Huang Shandai, the NGO’s founder.
Scout, was one of the fortunate dogs to be rescued by animal lover Peter Li, China specialist with Humane Society International (HSI). Li discovered Scout and another little polar bear of a dog, now named Colby, being held on a motorcycle. “On the back of it was a cage with two lively puppies. I went to the cage. The bigger puppy stood up to try to touch my fingers. He was so energetic, not knowing that he was in the most disgusting place. The other puppy was shy and sat in the corner of the cage. Without any thought, I told the man that I wanted those two dogs. It was too hard to leave them behind for the restaurant owners,” wrote Li on the HSI website.
Li, adopted Colby and and Scout was placed in his forever home with Leslie Barcus, who sits on the board of the animal welfare organization. Li said that he hopes the dogs will help bring attention to the Yulin festival, and hasten its end. “It is going down and will be gone,” he told Huffington Post. “We understand better that the dog meat festival has no future.”
“This year’s unprecedented campaign by Chinese animal welfare activists along with more than 100,000 signatures collected by HSI did not completely end the festival. But there was little celebration in this year’s event,” said HSI. “It was really not a festival anymore,” said Li. “It was just a reaction from the locals, saying, ‘We want to eat [dog meat].’ It was just shameful.”
“My husband is a policeman and I also work at a state-run company. We don’t want trouble. But we don’t want to give up the most important local customs,” said resident Zhang Bing. “So we went to my mother-in-law’s home at a remote village last weekend and ate dog meat with family and friends.”
“The dogs we eat are raised by local villagers just like pigs and chicken,” said Bing. “The summer solstice tradition of eating dog and lychees has been long held in the countryside. It became a festival as more and more dog meat restaurants opened in Yulin in the past decades. Residents would invite friends to go out and enjoy dog meat hot pot there.” She continued, “Yulin people eat dog meat in all seasons, just like Cantonese eat chicken every day and foreigners eat beef. I miss last summer when friends got together and enjoyed dog meat and lychees at the crowded restaurants at night. It did look like a wonderful festival.”
Scout is already becoming quite the ambassador for the cause. Last weekend he accompanied his new mom, Barcus, at a Humane Society gala in Washington, D.C. “I would really like to make sure he’s an ambassador to the community,” said Barcus. “We could use his help for educational purposes about the plight of street dogs and of dogs used as food — for human consumption — across Asia and other parts of the world.”
“The idea of a scout is loyalty, helping others, be friends of animals and to be in and love nature,” Barcus told Huffington Post. She hopes that her new puppy will inspire those traits in others. “I hope that Scout will both be an ambassador for all animals,” said Barcus. “Those in the dog meat trade, and as a symbol that humans should respond to the ethical calling of honoring other species and the role of those species on the planet.”
Photo Credit: Humane Society International