Protest against Yulin, but don't forget the 1.9m animals brutally slaughtered in the UK every month

The western distinction between dogs and farm animals is completely arbitrary

Ashitha Nagesh@ashnagesh
Wednesday 24 June 2015 11:45
Pigs are crammed into a tiny farm space
Pigs are crammed into a tiny farm space

Just last month 1.9m animals were slaughtered in a barbaric practice that has existed for hundreds of years.

The animals were beaten, electrocuted or even gassed to near-unconsciousness. Even though this is meant to knock them out, they are often still awake for what comes next – the throat slitting. They are strung up by their feet, and their throat cut from ear to ear, draining out all their blood. Sometimes the animals are still crying and kicking when they do this. Other types of animals are packed into huge crates, wheeled into a chamber and gassed to death.

But this isn’t happening in some distant country – this is all taking place in the British meat industry.

There has been a huge outcry over the Yulin dog and lychee festival in Guangxi, a south-western province of China, and with good reason. It is thought about 10,000 dogs (and cats) will be killed during the festival for their meat, which is a delicacy there.

It is horrific – photos have been circulating online of dogs crammed into crates and cages on their way to Yulin. But if you have ever seen pigs or sheep being transported, you’d know they’re also squashed up against each other in tightly packed crates, and driven uncomfortable distances to be gassed and slaughtered. It's a similarly heartbreaking sight.

Most meat and dairy-eating critics of the Yulin festival have said it’s not the fact that animals are being killed, but the “barbaric” way it’s done. So by that logic it would be acceptable if: the puppies were suffocated and ground up alive as soon as they are born, their throats were slit and their testicles cut off without anaesthetic, or the female dogs were forcibly impregnated so that the puppies could be slaughtered and the dogs could be hooked up to a contraption to extract the milk – when they stop producing milk they’re murdered. Because these are all accepted, “humane” practices from the British meat and dairy industries.

There’s actually no difference between Yulin and our meat industry, except quantity. 10,000 dogs will be slaughtered for the festival; almost 2m animals were slaughtered for meat in Britain last month, and will continue to be killed at the same rate.

It's good to hear that brave activists in China have acted against the festival. Some of them have driven long distances to Yulin to buy dogs in person and save them from slaughter. Yang Xiaoyun, for example, travelled all the way from Tianjin in northern China and spent more than £700 to rescue 100 dogs. She’s planning to set up a home to look after the dogs and has been met with mainstream praise in the west. But where is the praise for western activists such as Gary Yourofsky? He's done the same thing and released imprisoned animals from farms and laboratories – but activists like him have never been met with praise. They’re branded eco-terrorists.

The western distinction of “dog = friend, farm animal = food” is a completely arbitrary and false one. In Guangxi, dog = food. So the sudden outrage at a Chinese dog meat festival begs the question – why are meat eaters so comfortable criticising cruelty in a country 8,000 miles away, while actively supporting equally cruel and far larger-scale animal torture closer to home? Even Ricky Gervais – self-titled “animal avenger” and the main campaigner against Yulin – is, to my knowledge, a meat-eater (although he has said that he doesn't eat red meat, "to rule out any cruelty").

Anyone who genuinely cares about non-human animals won’t just fight against the injustices committed in faraway places. The only question you have to ask yourself is: do I care about animals? If you do, then it doesn't matter if its fluffy or cute, or if it's possible to own one as a pet. Slaughter is slaughter, and suffering is suffering.

So by all means sign the anti-Yulin petition, but don't pretend that the worst animal cruelty in the world is happening "over there". It's here as well, and won't stop until we realise that it's as much our problem as China's.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments