Yulin officials must cook up better dog plan

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-6-16 18:33:01

As the June 21 summer solstice nears, the city of Yulin in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is bogged down in a dog meat festival dilemma.

The city's carnival-like festival, formed spontaneously in the 1990s, features residents devouring lychees and dogs. But as the festival becomes known to a wider population, there have been more protests on the Internet, especially in social media, where Net users call for an end to the festival.

This year sees enormous growing tension in this matter as celebrities including movie stars join in the debate. These activists, mainly dog-lovers, believe a dog is a pet, not livestock. "They are the best friends of all humanity. How can you eat your best friend?" some Net users post such messages on their Weibo accounts.

But for those who counter these protests, they believe dog meat is no different to beef, pork or chicken. "You cannot say dogs are mostly pets so we cannot eat them. Some people raise pigs as pets, does this mean we cannot eat pigs as well?" There are also a number of people rejecting the dog lovers' logic.

There will probably never be a conclusion to this debate. Dog meat, rarely consumed in the West, is widely regarded as a kind of food since ancient times in China. Some other countries in East and Southeast Asia also have a tradition of eating dog.

There is no law or moral principle forbidding people to eat it. But it is also a fact that in many people's minds, dogs are somewhat different from ordinary meat sources like chickens and cows. Their close connection with people's daily life has earned them special favor with humanity.

Since different perspectives are referred to in the debate, it becomes useless to argue whether eating dogs should be abandoned or not. In fact, the focus of this matter never lies in the "to be or not to be" question. It is a confrontation between traditional dietary habits and modern lifestyle.

The key to deciding whether this issue can be properly addressed is to make sure the impact of the dog meat festival is controlled within ranges acceptable to both sides.

This idea relies on local authorities taking the initiative and finding an acceptable common ground between dog eaters and dog lovers. The main reason this dog meat festival has caused so much trouble is that the bloody pictures and videos of dog butchery, most done openly at market, were posted online. These things will hit a dog lover's nerve.

Local authorities should conduct strict and detailed regulations of the whole dog slaughter process. They need to impose stricter hygiene standards on dog meat producers, which on the one hand will squeeze small vendors, whose hygiene conditions cannot meet standards, out of the market, and on the other hand, make sure dogs are killed in a more humane manner making the meat safe and certified.

The dog meat festival is a custom and business-oriented event, and shouldn't be labeled as a brutality. The involvement of the local government is not an attempt to manipulate the free market, but an effort that must be taken to restore the image of Yulin.

So far the local government has only taken some temporary measures by denying any connection to the initiation of the festival and banning its officials from eating dog at the festival.

However, that will hardly ease the growing tensions or reverse many people's ideas about Yulin. Finding out the crux and carrying out a comprehensive and pertinent plan must top their agenda now.

Wen Dao, a freelance writer based in Beijing

Posted in: Letters

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