Why are we Outraged at the Yulin Dog Festival? This may not be a popular opinion. As pet owners we share our homes and lives with pets. It behoves us to pay attention to the treatment of all sentient beings. Not just the ones we live with or the ones that look like our pets.
Yulin is a city in the Shanxi province of North China (famous for its Terracotta Soldiers), close to the Mongolian border. Each year the International community with laser focused outrage vilify the city for an annual dog festival. A festival which slaughters (albeit viciously) and eat dogs! Such savages, because no civilised society treats dogs this way. Are they uncivilised, or do they just not fit our standards of civilisation? Humane slaughter is an oxymoron.
We slaughter and consume billions of animals globally, in horrendously inhumane conditions. We breed dogs to suit for our visual appeal and allow hundreds of bracycephalic dogs and cats to live in discomfort. Because we put dresses on dogs and cats to humanise them, is no indication our attention to their physical welfare.
Food or pets, the barrier is fluid. Not all domesticated animals are pets, not all pets are food. In some cultures domesticated animals are food and pets! In a nutshell there are no rules. Dogs, horses, pigs (who are widely believed to be as intelligent if not more intelligent than dogs) are food, friends and pets.
Yulin’s yearly dog festival makes it a temporary wet market, or a open air slaughter house. We sign petitions, create campaigns and demonstrate against this practice. The outrage is well placed. Or is it misplaced?
Because of course, slaughter in the civilised world is out of sight and mind.
For a ‘dog person’, the Yulin festival is an abomination. Our love and compassion toward dogs is probably hard wired into us. Archeologists estimate dogs have lived alongside man for 10,000 years. So why isn’t our love of horses as passionate? Horses have been integral to our transport, fought along side soldiers in wars and sporting activities for hundreds of years. Yet horse meat is widely eaten and accepted as part of the diet in parts of Europe- and there is no outrage.
But, and there is always a but! Domesticated animals such as pigs, chicken, cows, turkeys. . . . . are slaughtered in the billions each year. Where is the outrage? There is none, because the violence is hidden.
We see no slaughter, hear no slaughter and never speak of slaughter.
The attendees and stall owners of the Yulin dog festival are a miniaturised version of our food system. What’s different is here you can SEE the slaughter, the fear and the gore. This is a cultural, difference.
Human beings consume a variety of meats, as you read this store shelves are laden with hundreds of tons of meat. Your summer BBQ, Paleo Diet, the Maine Lobster festival (lobsters now have protection in countries as sentient beings) are all cultural accepted rituals or — would you give them up?
When you wade into the murky waters of human or animal rights or racial and gender equality. You must recognise we work toward our skewed perception of equality. Not toward an absolute equality- if such a utopian concept exists.
When outrage targets a microcosm it is misplaced. It should be at an industry which exploits animals, workers and consumers. At the industry who has perfected the art of convincing millions of people globally to be unwilling participants in mini Yulin Festivals all year round. Our outrage target an educational system which does not confront or teach the truth.
We accept slaughter as a part of life for a variety of reasons, all of which may or may not fit our worldview, but they exist. Shaming them away will never be the solution.
Because we all live in glass houses.
Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels