Despite an international outcry, the Yulin Dog Meat and Lychee Festival in China will proceed as planned, beginning Wednesday.
The festival celebrates the Chinese province’s rich history of preparing and eating canines, despite dogs being known as companion animals in much of the Western world.
It’s not a popular event for animal rights activists. Meanwhile, countries where man’s best friend is valued as more than an entree have campaigned in the United Nations and to Chinese state government to ban the festival and the practice. Earlier this year, Chinese authorities reportedly told a number of American diplomats that they’d banned the festival, but no one told the festival vendors and attendees.
Stall holders told the BBC that they hadn’t heard of a ban, and the Yulin city government confirmed that it had neither issued, nor agreed to a ban on the sale of dog meat.
According to vendors, the city is limiting them to two dogs on display at their stalls at one time.
Journalists combing the festival on Wednesday said that limit definitely wasn’t being enforced. They did report, however, that local police were closely monitoring the crowd for press and animal rights activists. One photographer from AFP was asked to leave, and officers requested that all his photos of the market be deleted. Several activists who tried to free some of the live dogs for sale were also tossed.
Residents of Yuchin say they don’t quite understand the international furor over the dog meat festival. They’ve eaten dog for centuries, and its a common dish across southeast Asia (Barack Obama famously described eating dog during his childhood in Indonesia, in his memoir, Dreams from My Father); the Chinese kill between 10 million and 20 million dogs annually.
It’s no different, the Chinese argue, from consuming other adorable animals, like cows, pigs and chickens. If the dogs aren’t stolen, treated poorly or killed in an inhumane way, they fail to see the problem.
Each year, though, local government officials told the BBC, coverage of the event—which is organized without the help of municipal leadership—gets a little bit worse, and that, the government says, may push for a greater crackdown.
This year, though, Fido just isn’t safe.