When you buy a puppy, do you hang it alive and yelping on a hook, slamming its back or neck into the sharp end to make sure it is fixed there, and then do you take a sharp knife, slitting its stomach from its anus to its throat, rip its skin off and then sneer in derision as it writhes in pain in a heap of terrified, dying puppies? Welcome to China
If you are squeamish or get easily upset at stories of cruelty to animals then please do not read this piece. It has taken me all day to write one page and after witnessing the scenes I have viewed today, forgive me for having extremely negative views of humankind.
It is, after all this, difficult to feel rational about the People's Republic of China and the Chinese people after reading and seeing what happens at the annual Yulin dog meat festival, where Man's Best Friend is slaughtered, beaten to death or left bleeding to death with their insides hanging out, flinching in terror and twitching in abject pain as they are flung into a pile on the floor to be sold as meat. It gets worse.
Is this the case of a centuries-old, ancient festival, a millenary culture which has been respected through the ages? No, it was begun in the year 2009 with the purpose of helping the dog meat industry to boost its sales.
But let us not tar all the Chinese with the same brush: millions of Chinese people have spoken out against this outrage and millions are trying to get the festival banned - so many that the number of people turning up every year is starting to diminish, the Yulin authorities have taken away their sponsorship of the event and the city's municipal workers have been told not to attend. They say it is a local custom attended by a small percentage of the city's residents. And true, many Chinese people go around buying up and rounding up as many street or stray dogs and cats as they can before the festival begins. But...
At Yulin, pet dogs are stolen from their owners. Apart from being strung up and hung on meat hooks, some are burned alive, others are boiled alive, others are beaten to death with hammers. Others are sliced to pieces with chainsaws, screaming in agony, trembling in terror, literally being cut to pieces while their terrified faces are held in vices.
But it is not only dogs that suffer this epitome of cruelty at Yulin. Cats, also. There is photographic evidence of puppies thrown into a pot of boiling water. Another of a kitten being held with a firm grip of the hand while its fur is removed with a blow torch. In another, a woman looks on, smiling, as a dog writhes around in pain, wriggling its four legs helplessly, looking at the camera in utter and total defeat as its intestines hang out of a gaping slash in its side. In another, a dog is whimpering as it tries to crawl away after being boiled and skinned. Its eyes have been burnt, its snout is covered in blisters but it is still alive.
In another, a dog is hauled out of a crate stuffed full of the animals, crammed in so tight that they can hardly breathe, and is grilled alive, feet first, while the scruff of its neck is held by the cook, as the customer looks on. The dog is screaming and trying desperately to escape.
The Yulin dog meat festival was begun on June 21 2009 and is held annually, supposedly because eating dog meat helps people to cope with the heat during Summer. Remember we are speaking about the country where people sponsor the murder of rhinos, tigers and bears because it is thought their body parts act as sexual stimulants (for those not man enough to do the job by themselves).
Every year, it is claimed and admitted by the organizers, ten to fifteen thousand dogs are slaughtered and consumed from June 21 to 30. Others claim that the figure is hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats. But elsewhere in China, around twenty million dogs are slaughtered every year, so it is not only in Yulin, in Guangxi. Some Chinese prefer the taste of adrenalin-flavored meat, so for that reason dogs are boiled alive or beaten with clubs to release blood into their flesh. In the other locations in China where dogs, cats or other animals are eaten, let us imagine the horrific stories these acts of butchery tell.
Writing this piece, I do not for one minute believe that this cruelty is confined to Yulin, I do not for one minute believe that it is confined to China. The Japanese after all slaughter whales with callous excuses, then chop the beaks off dolphins and leave them floundering and gasping for breath in the seas.
In India laws have been passed confirming the non-human personhood status of animals, giving them basic rights. What a difference. The rest of the world can have a say, signing petitions and asking the Chinese authorities, in this case, what they are going to do to stop the practice of cruelty to animals in China, not only in Yulin and not only to dogs and cats.
The locals and the organizers of the Yulin festival claim that the animals are slain humanely. For those who are in doubt, Google up Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
I was asked to write a three-page piece on this. Forgive me. For once, I am utterly stuck for words. I cannot continue.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.