Chinese animal charities advise rescuers not to buy dogs in Yulin

20 June 2017

Dog for sale

Over 100 Chinese animal NGOs have signed an open letter ahead of the Yulin dog meat festival reminding rescuers – buying dogs fuels the trade.

For the second year in a row, Chinese animal welfare groups dedicated to improving the lives of cats and dogs in China, have urged others not to buy dogs from meat traders at Yulin as part of so-called rescues.

Last year, 84 NGOs put their name to the plea, a number already eclipsed by this year’s statement, which 104 organisations have signed.

The organisations claim that rescuing dogs by buying them increases profits for dog traders, who benefit from the increased demand and spiralling prices. It also says that buying dogs is open to fundraising abuse – with urgent public pleas for rescue donations but no guarantees that the dogs will be cared for afterwards. The short-term nature of the media spotlight means that transparency over the future care and dogs rescued is often limited.

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“We absolutely respect and back the wishes of the heroes working on the ground in China day in, day out. Their commitment to improving the lives of dogs and cats and ending the meat trades in China cannot be doubted and we proudly stand with them in their efforts.

“Their message is a reminder that the work to end dog meat eating goes on every single day of the year in China – thanks to these incredible people. That cannot be jeopardised by ill-advised behaviour during the Yulin festival. Their aim is our aim – we want to end the dog meat trade in China.  Charities, animal lovers, the media – need to think far bigger than just this festival. This is not about one or two weeks a year.”

Love Animal Model School - with Professor Fanshu

The Chinese city of Yulin has become infamous in recent years due to the Yulin dog meat festival which takes place annually to celebrate the summer solstice. To celebrate, locals take to the streets to feast on dog meat and lychees.

Requesting animal lovers to be “rational”, the letter from China’s animal welfare groups advocates education and the use of existing laws to help bring about an end to the dog meat industry.

Jill and team

The letter states:

“Buying large numbers of dogs at Yulin is stimulating the local market, increasing the number of dogs slaughtered and increasing the price of dog meat, while the welfare of rescued dogs cannot be guaranteed, providing opportunities for criminals to defraud domestic and foreign donors.”

And continues:

“The people of Yulin consume dog meat all the year round. If some groups or individuals want to buy dogs in order to “save lives”, they can purchase dogs at other times to avoid the festival period. The same price can save more lives. Also, there are dog meat restaurants in other cities, not just in Yulin. Dog lovers can buy dogs in their local area and save more lives.”

Yulin day 2

Across China, up to 10 million dogs are believed to be slaughtered for consumption, a number which vastly eclipses the estimated 1,000-10,000 which are said to be consumed during the summer solstice in Yulin.

Despite the millions of dogs killed for their meat each year, a long-running Animals Asia investigation found no evidence of any large-scale dog meat farms, adding weight to the widely held belief that most dogs which end of on the dinner table are stolen companion animals and strays snatched from the street.

We saw only a few pups at a farm claiming to be large-scale

Read the letter’s full objections to buying dogs at Yulin below:

1. Despite the number of dogs bought in Yulin, the absolute number of saved dogs is small while the absolute numbers of dogs consumed could yet be increased due to this abnormal stimulation of consumption within the market. By buying dogs in Yulin you objectively become part of the black market dog meat trade.

2. Buying dogs pushes up the local dog meat price, increasing the price during the Summer Solstice period and helps vendors make more profit. This is an abnormal boost even though it enjoys public sympathy.

3. There is the risk of criminal activity and it is open to abuse. Public announcements are not always backed up by transparent accounts and management and the dog meat market price is also affected by public announcements promising dog rescues.

If rescuers have limited funds then Yulin festival is the worst time and location to carry out a paid-for rescue. The inflated price means many more dogs could be rescued away from the region.

4. It is also difficult to track rescued animals after the event. A rescue is just the first step - frequently there is no money for rehabilitation for a large number of dogs. If the dogs have to be rehoused fast then it's impossible to background check individuals. There remains the risk that these could return back to dog markets. Even those moved by truck to far-flung shelters may die en route. Again it is open to abuse as individuals can exaggerate the number of rescued animals in return for donations.

In order to save lives, dog lovers can buy dogs in their local area and reduce the cost of long distance transportation. This will save more lives, and the dogs may have a better chance to survive after the rescue.

Buying dogs from the highlighted areas boosts the local industry and leads to more innocent deaths while also helping local traders make higher profit. It can even breed unsupervised so-called animal activists with ulterior motives. We firmly say NO to this!

Without an animal protection law and without the local government enforcing strict security supervision, we cannot stop the dog slaughter in Yulin temporarily. While we push for animal protection legislation, we have to face the helpless truth that large numbers of animals will be killed. True animal activists should act more rationally and better use existing laws and regulations to help the cause and make our voices heard.

For example, we can ask to the government to strengthen law enforcement, do more public education work, make more legal challenges, increase correspondence with government, seek more celebrity support, seek more international support and more media coverage. These are all pragmatic methods – not the high-profile buying of dogs, and not fundraising without transparent accounts where neither donations nor dogs can be tracked.

The co-signed animal protection organisations appeal – be a rational animal activist, don’t buy large numbers of dogs at Yulin.

Animals Asia provides funding and training to around 100 animal welfare groups in China that rescue dogs and cats and undertake other welfare initiatives that directly help companion animals. Animals Asia also runs conferences for the leaders of these groups, allowing problems and solutions to be debated and discussed.

Ms Inga Fricke gives a speech at the symposium