Exclusive: Humane Society International On the Dog Meat Trade In China
You might remember the huge global outcry against the Yulin Dog Meat Festival this past June.
Over four million people signed a petition asking the Chinese government to stop it. Celebs, including Barbra Streisand and Ricky Gervais, joined with Humane Society International in its effort to draw world attention to the barbarity of the “festivities.” Yet, the festival still took place, and sadly, the consumption of dog meat in China doesn’t stop there. The country’s dog and cat meat trade is an ongoing issue with little enforcement or regulation from the Chinese government.
Ecorazzi spoke with Humane Society International’s Adam Parascandola, who witnessed the brutality of Yulin first-hand. Here’s what he had to say on the dog meat trade, how Humane Society International is assisting local activists in China, and what we can do to help right here at home.
On the Chinese dog meat industry.
“Dog meat in China these days is eaten in a couple of geographical areas. The majority of China no longer consumes dog meat. We are talking a small percentage of the population, but China has huge population, so millions of dogs are still being eaten for food. The Yulin Festival brought in everyone’s attention because that’s one of the biggest times to eat dog meat – during the summer solstice — but it is consumed year long as well…Most of [the dogs] are either stolen pets and some stray dogs that are rounded up. And some people sell some of their breeding dogs when they are no longer able to breed to meat dog traders. [The dog meat trade] is in a legal limbo. It’s not really legal, it’s not really illegal. It’s a completely unregulated trade.”
On the origins of the Yulin Festival and his experience there.
“The Yulin festival was created in 2010 by dog meat traders in the city of Yulin because they were seeing a decline in their sales, so they came up with the idea of the festival during Summer Solstice to push their sales. Initially, the government of Yulin thought it was a good idea because it would bring tourists into the city and were behind it, but then they quickly realized it wasn’t a great selling point for their city and they distanced themselves from it. Officially, the government says there isn’t a festival because they don’t back it up, but it still continues. The restaurants still sell the meat, and the dog meat traders still put it on.”
“There were a lot of activists and protesting from local activists [at Yulin]. During the early morning hours, I would go to the slaughterhouses. They function overnight; they sort of hide it now. I get up at 3:30 in the morning and see that a big truck that arrived there and watched and filmed a lot of what occurred. I couldn’t actually see the slaughter, thankfully, but I could see the dogs being unloaded and put into this large cage or pen. They were piled three or four dogs high on top of each other. There would be some guy who’d hit the dogs indiscriminately. He would beat the dogs not to kill it, but there is a belief that [by doing so] it releases hormones that tenderizes the meat. They were killed in the next room. From my understanding, the dogs’ throats are slit.”
On what Humane Society International is doing to help the cause.
“There is huge movement in China coming from youth activists who are fighting to end the dog meat trade. Humane Society International witnesses what’s occurring there and we bring that to the rest of the world. It’s the first year that there were some incredible media attention, with lots of media outlets that came and were interested in covering the story from afar…The Humane Society supports the activists within the country. A year and half ago, [the activists] were really frustrated that the government wasn’t enforcing regulation for the dog meat trade so the activists would stop and surround the trucks who were transporting the dogs, and they would bring the authorities to the trucks and show them that the trader didn’t have the proper paperwork and didn’t quarantine the dogs. In 2014, they rescued 8,000 dogs this way. So we get involved with the activism and we set up and sponsor a command center, essentially, and train people who are there. So when the truck gets pulled over, they are trained in the legal aspects and we send a negotiator over and they negotiate with the authorities and they work with the local activists to help with saving the dogs. Since Yulin, over 1,400 dogs have been rescued. We don’t see it as a long-term strategy — ultimately it will be up to the government to enforce these regulations — but this is something that is bringing attention to the issue and causing the government to deal with it when it happens. When the truck is pulled over, it becomes a scene and there are a lot of onlookers, and it can take up to 48 hours. It is just a big ruckus and the government doesn’t really like it.”
On what the average person can do to help.
“When these things are going on, it’s helpful to have people around the world to spread the message and express the horror. One of the best ways to help is support these groups, like ourselves at Humane International, who coordinate and send the funds over and also to try to teach [local activists] how to tap into the population to get support. There are also actions that come up, like petitions. People who are on our websites or follow what’s going on and they see these petitions come up asking the Chinese government to enforce these regulations.”
On the HSI/HSUS-affiliated documentary, “Eating Happiness.”
“Eating Happiness” is produced by a Chinese man named Genlin who went back to his home village a few years ago and while he was there he discovered that dogs were being consumed. He has dogs and he’s a dog lover and he was horrified by what he saw. He wanted to do a documentary in the dog meat trade in China, Korea and Vietnam. He undertook the documentary and did a thorough job and he looks at all the aspects of the dog trade. Ultimately his goal is to end the dog meat trade. And the first step is to educate people on dog meat trade and the various ways the trade works.”
Watch the trailer for “Eating Happiness”: