Public doesn’t want puppies on plates

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/22 22:53:00

Illustration: Liu Rui /GT

Editor's Note

An annual dog meat festival in Yulin, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, began Tuesday amid uproar on the part of animal rights activists. There have been fierce disputes on whether to cancel this local festival for years. How can public rifts be peacefully settled? How far will the festival go? The Global Times has collected three pieces on the matter.

Space for reason amid too heated disputes

There is a vast intermediate zone between extreme protectionism and indiscriminate slaughter, where a fundamental consensus may be reached. Yulin has been thrust into the limelight every summer since 2010. Known for its dog meat festival, this small city is an arena for public confrontations between animal rights activists and dog meat retailers, which has evolved from dog lovers' purchasing and freeing dogs to their harassment of traders. There are even intense physical conflicts.

A poll conducted prior to this year's festival suggests that most respondents (64 percent) support the abolition of the festival, and 51.7 percent believe the trade in dog meat should be completely prohibited. There are still some who insist eating dog meat remains an individual right.

However, direct conflicts between dog lovers and retailers are dying down. The public is focusing more on other issues, such as food security, government supervision and animal rights.

Many are diverting their attention from whether people can eat dog meat to food security and health concerns. The interest chain behind the dog meat market that steals dogs, butchers them, transports them and sells their meat is gradually exposed to the public.

A consensus that stealing, butchering and selling unsanitary dogs and other illegal actions including harassing and appropriating proprietors' private properties should be punished has been reached.

However, it is tough to find solutions to ethical issues. Whether people are allowed to eat dogs can easily trigger public rifts. At present, no law explicitly forbids killing or eating dogs.

As a tradition in many places, eating dog meat is a personal choice. People can choose not to eat dog meat and report the illegal trade to police, but have no right to obstruct legal business activities involving dog meat. In fact, most animal rights activists are not that violent or ridiculous, and some of their proposals are rational and valuable.

It is not advised to have public rifts over dog meat as there are already many conflicts in modern Chinese society.

While illegal actions should be punished according to laws, time is needed to settle ethical issues. A civilized society should have the capability to distinguish an honestly run meat industry from unnecessary cruelty to animals.

The Beijing News

Regulating trade would solve issues

Since 2010, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival has kept making headlines on the summer solstice, when it begins. According to a recent poll, 64 percent of the respondents think the festival should be banned.

Located in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Yulin is blistered by tropical heat and damp summer. Since the old days, local people have believed that dog meat is good for their health in the scorching weather. Thus, the Yulin people developed and sustained the tradition of eating dog meat, and modern day traders made it a carnival on the summer solstice.

But protesters against eating dog meat believe that dogs are different from other animals humans raise. In Western cultures, most people believe cats and dogs are companions and family members instead of sources of meat. People raise dogs to meet their emotional needs. However, even though humans raise many varieties of animals as pets, these animals are still important source of meat for others.

Not only in China, but also in South Korea, several dog meat festivals have been abolished. Yulin is the new target of the animal rights protectors.

The city first drew people's attention when a social media post featuring a butcher killing a dog in public had gone viral. A lot of stories and pictures have since been published on the Internet, most of which are about how these dogs are stolen from their hosts, abused during transportation and brutally killed by dealers.

One prominent problem with eating dog meat is that in China, dog meat is not made from dogs bred for the purpose. Many dogs are trapped and kidnapped by dog thieves who sell them to butchers and meat dealers. The entire process is illegal, inhuman and risky for health.

Eating dog meat does not contravene with law in China, nor is it labeled illegal in most other countries and regions. Therefore, the crux of the Yulin case is not about whether dog meat can be consumed or not, but how to regulate the process of acquiring dog meat. Even if the festival can be banned, dealings and eating will still remain.

Thus, the solution is to impose strict regulation on the dog meat business. There should be a whole set of rules and standards set up as soon as possible to supervise the feeding, killing, transportation and sales of dog meat. By forbidding illegal dog meat, the business will be no different from any other legalized butchery.

Ethical line crossed in raging arguments

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival, which has been held every summer since 2010, has never failed to trigger fierce debates. According to a recent poll, 64 percent of the interviewees support the end of the annual event, which is simply a "cruel trade" under the name of "Chinese culture."

Yulin's city government has explained for a long time that it has never organized this event and that the "Lychee and Dog Meat Festival" is not a real festival. Since it is never a ceremony held by governmental organization, but only spontaneous behavior by local people, should we just cancel it altogether?

From the perspective of animal ethics, we can without question call for an end to eating dogs, but there should be a boundary of rational behaviors when we do it. Stopping a car in the middle of a highway to save dogs, or threatening people who eat dog meat will only create boomerang effect. If diners have not directly offended animal protection activists, should the former's rights be respected? At least so far, there is no law that stipulates "eating dog is a crime."

This is not only a matter of the fight between loving dogs and eating them, but about boundaries of freedom and legal rights in a normal functioning society. All the divergences about the festival should be unfolded based on a social consensus and law, otherwise, there will be no solution in the end.

The development of social ethics is a process of evolution as well as an outcome of compromises among each kind of the divergences. A growing number of people have realized that eating dog meat should not be promoted, and that such behavior runs counter to animal welfare and ethics. This shows that people's views are making progress. But for those who have not yet realized it, should we force them to "better themselves?"

In the light of this, perhaps it's a more preferable for us to do more fundamental works under the framework of current rules and laws, rather than irrationally taking sides on whether to protect dogs or eat dogs. For example, the law prohibits the transportation and consumption of meat that comes from unknown sources. The authorities should make more efforts in fulfilling their duties such as investigating illegal circulation of dog meat.

Beijing Times

Posted in: Viewpoint

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