Activists in China intercepted 68 dogs en route to slaughter at the controversial dog meat festival in Yulin city.
The desperate dogs were rescued outside of the city in the Guangxi Autonomous Region, which found that many of the animals were in poor health, according to Humane Society International.
And despite claims by festival goers that these dogs were raised for slaughter, rescuers found that the dogs were eager to stretch their paws at people – suggesting that they were once pets.
An activist told the South China Morning Post that her group was forced to self-confiscate the dogs after it became clear that local authorities were unwilling to help with the rescues.
The news comes after many attempts by animal rights activists to get Yulin’s local government to ban the annual festival, which has been going on for over a decade. The event has never been approved or endorsed by local officials, but continues annually at the beginning of summer with encouragement from tourists and some locals who have described it as a “gathering of the public during the summer solstice” – rather than a celebration of dog meat.
Animal rights activists say the rescued dogs quickly raised their paws for humans, suggesting they were likely someone’s pet before they showed up at Yulin’s dog meat festival. AFP via Getty Images
In May, Yulin’s Agriculture Department reportedly imposed restrictions on livestock production and transportation – an attempt to curb the trend of stealing pets or selling potentially diseased dog meat – and fined them up to 150,000 yuan (about $ 23,100) found in the event of violations.
“The Yulin authorities have a responsibility to protect public health … who knows what diseases? [these dogs] could wear, it could end up in the grocery market, ”said the activist, according to the SCMP.
The dogs rest and recover under the care of volunteer veterinarians until they can be transported from a Humane Society International animal shelter for further recovery.
These 68 dogs are the lucky ones, said HSI China policy expert Peter Li, among the millions who are still at risk.
According to Humane Society International, an estimated 30 million dogs are killed for their meat in Asia each year, with 10 to 20 million such deaths occurring in China alone.AFP via Getty Images
“Through dog theft, illegal trans-provincial transport and inhuman slaughter, the trade not only harms animals, but also endangers 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 across Asia each year, with 10 to 20 million such deaths occurring in China alone, according to the HSI. Last year, the Chinese government banned the sale and consumption of wild animals (as opposed to farm animals) – at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic hit, which many experts believe could 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 still no nationwide ban on the practice.