There has been a lot of buzz in the media about the Yulin dog and lychee festival in Guangxi, a south-western province of China, for the past few weeks. It is thought about 10,000 dogs (and cats) would be killed during the festival for their meat, which is a delicacy there. People – Westerners in particular – have denounced the festival, and tried to stop it from happening.
I learned today that despite the worldwide outcry, the festival went ahead. Ten thousand innocent lives were lost, all in the name of satisfying tastebuds, and celebration.
The creature who I love most in this world is a dog. Freyja is very special to me and having lived with her for three years now I have witnessed how unique and individual she is. I would do anything to protect her, and am acutely aware of how wholly dependent she is on me for her protection and safety. I also foster dogs, and know many dogs through our park visits. Each and every one of them has his or her own personality; quirks, favourites, things that annoy them, and so on.
The thought of 10,000 Freyjas meeting a horrifying, torturous, and completely unnecessary death makes me feel like i’ve been punched in the gut.
Many animal activists have fairly pointed out that the Yulin event is really no different from what we in the Western world do on a day-to-day basis to cows, pigs, chickens, and other “farmed animals.” They also argue that we are taking a culturally imperialist position in protesting the slaughter of some types of animals, while turning a blind eye to the slaughter of other species of animals who share many of the same attributes.
I don’t know enough about the Yulin festival to know whether or not it is uniquely awful, but I do believe that it is probably a lot easier for people who choose to eat animals to protest a faraway festival’s horrors, than to turn a critical eye to the Western habits, customs and celebrations that lead to mass death and destruction on an even larger scale than Yulin.
I think it’s always a good thing when people are sparked in a way that results in empathy and a desire to improve the lot of others. I would not want to discourage that.
But I do hope that those who oppose the Yulin festival also consider opening their hearts to the billions of farmed animals who suffer a fate not unlike the 10,000 dogs and cats at Yulin.
Each of those animals also has sentience, the capacity to feel harm (and pleasure!), and a desire to live. Some – like pigs – could think circles around dogs. Not that lesser intelligence = lesser right to life is a slippery slope that we should really go down.
I’ve seen lots of debate online about whether or not what happens to the Yulin dogs is worse than what happens to farmed animals. I’m not sure that it’s a distinction that’s really necessary or meaningful. To me, it comes down to choosing kindness and life, or choosing to end lives unnecessarily.
Very often the passion and urgency expressed by vegans is read by non-vegans as being personal to them. It’s not. It’s my hope that non-vegans will consider how horrifying they find the Yulin festival, and all of the feelings that it evokes within them, and understand that this is not unlike the trauma that vegans experience when considering the fate of farmed animals. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut when I think too long or hard about their demise, as well.
Be outraged and devastated for the dogs of Yulin, but also consider that similar treatment is doled out in the name of our own traditions and habits on a daily basis. The difference between farmed animals and companion animals is pretty arbitrary. And know: You CAN make different choices.
In honour of the Yulin dogs, whose immense suffering I cannot even let myself think about, I have donated the shelter “pull fee” for a tiny pit bull girl who was used as a bait dog. May she spend the rest of her days safe in loving care. ❤