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Activists in China have intercepted a haul of 68 dogs on the way to slaughter at the controversial dog meat festival in the city of Yulin.
The desperate dogs were rescued just outside of the city, in the Guangxi autonomous region, according to Humane Society International, who found that many of the animals appeared to be in poor health.
And, despite festival-goers claims that these canines are raised for slaughter, rescuers found the dogs eager to extend their paws to humans — suggesting they had once been pets.
An activist told the South China Morning Post that their group had been forced to confiscate the dogs themselves after it became clear that local authorities were not prepared to help with the rescue effort.
The news comes after many attempts by animal advocates to push Yulin’s local government to ban the annual festival, which has carried on for over a decade. The event has never received sanction or support by local officials, but continues yearly at the beginning of summer with the encouragement of tourists and few locals who have described it as a “gathering of the public during the summer solstice” — and not as a celebration of dog meat.
In May, Yulin’s agricultural department reportedly enacted restrictions on livestock production and transportation — an effort to curb the trend of stealing pet dogs or selling potentially diseased dog meat — and set fines up to 150,000 yuan (about $23,100) for those found in violation.
“The Yulin authorities have a responsibility to protect public health … who knows what diseases [these dogs] could carry that could end up in the food market,” the activist said, according to SCMP.
The dogs are now resting and recovering under the care of volunteer rescue vets until they can be transported by a Humane Society International shelter for further convalescence.
These 68 dogs are the lucky ones, said HSI’s China policy specialist Peter Li, out of the millions that remain in danger.
“Through dog theft, illegal trans-provincial transport and inhumane slaughter, the trade not only subjects animals to suffering but also risks public health with the potential for the spread of rabies and other diseases. These are compelling reasons for the Chinese authorities to end this trade once and for all,” he told SCMP.
An estimated 30 million dogs are killed for their meat each year across Asia, with 10-20 million such deaths occurring in China alone, according to HSI. Last year, the Chinese government banned the sale and consumption of wildlife (as opposed to farmed animals) — at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold, which many experts have said may be the result of unregulated exotic animal trade.
While some local governments have gone so far as to ban the eating of dogs and cats, there is as yet no nationwide ban on the practice.
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