Celebration of Yulin Festival ban is premature

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is held annually in Yulin, Guangxi, China since 2010. The name often calls forth imagery of multiple dogs being held in cramped cages, or dogs being skinned and boiled alive. Some of the dogs are even reported to be stolen pets. The use of dogs for food is not limited to the festival, but takes place across China year-round. For Australians, there is little doubt that this is a cruel and needless practice, and many others agree. Celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and George Lopez have publicly spoken out against the event.

Last week, after many years of protests, activists were finally able to rejoice after hearing that Chinese authorities have banned the sale of dog meat at the Yulin Festival. This momentous announcement has been the fruit of labour of both international and brave local activists, some of whom risk their lives to rescue dogs.

However, don’t celebrate just yet. Many activists are skeptical of the ban, with some reports suggesting that cats will likely be served instead, and others that previous bans have not prevented the festival from occurring. Marc Ching, activist and founder of the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, believes that this latest ban is simply another attempt to deflect attention from the festival.

Supposing even that the ban goes ahead, we still have a long way to go. Amidst the protest against the Yulin Festival, the vast majority of people globally still consume animal products, many of whom undergo treatment as horrific as the dogs. Pigs show similar mental and social traits to dogs and chimpanzees, and display complex emotions. They can perceive the passage of time, anticipate the future, show signs of spatial learning and memory, and that’s just the beginning.

More people are keeping pigs as companion animals, and anyone who has seen them up close will know the affection they show to each other and to humans, and how inquisitive and playful they can be. Yet in Australian factory farms, they are kept in farrowing cages so small that they can’t turn around. This is where they will see out most of their lives.

The female pigs are forcibly impregnated until they are no longer productive, such they continue to give birth to young pigs, which are either used for breeding or raised for their flesh. The end to their life in slaughterhouses constitutes a final horrific experience to their miserable lives. This suffering is not exclusive to pigs, and it is not the case of a few bad producers that don’t follow regulations.

In 2016, 28 United States representatives of Congress signed a bipartisan resolution condemning the Yulin Festival, calling for the Chinese Government to take action. Today, there are still numerous subsidies supported by the US federal government that support factory farming practices, which arguably treat animals worse than dogs at Yulin. Seen through an objective lens, this is a strange hypocrisy.

If you have been upset by the Yulin Dog Meat Festival but still eat other animals, watch the footage of pigs in Australian slaughterhouses. Ask yourself if it is any better than the way the Yulin dogs are treated. You can help to eliminate the suffering of animals simply by making different purchasing choices, and even benefit the environment and your health at the same time.

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