China’s horrific dog meat festival is under way despite the coronavirus pandemic with fears it could be a breading ground for the virus.
The 10-day long Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, started on June 21 to celebrate the summer solstice, but has been rebranded as the Yulin Summer Solstice Festival.
Despite its name change dogs and cats are still being tortured, before being killed and sold for meat after spending days crammed in tiny cages desperate for food and water.
In one shocking video dog was filmed having a blowtorch used on its body while still alive, before it was likely boiled to remove the rest of its fur.
Another one shows a greyhound being carried to a boiling cauldron by three men as a little boy watches in horror.
The dog howls in terror as it tries to free itself before two men hold it down and cover it with a lid until it dies.
Keith Guo, a media officer for PETA Asia, told Mirror Online that dog traders hit the dogs in the head with a rod and blow-torch them to burn their coats before boiling them in hot water to remove any remaining fur.
He said: “Most of the time, the dogs are not killed instantly but are knocked unconscious when the vendors batter them in the head.
“The dogs wake up when they were being boiled or blow-torched alive.
“Some of them are slashed in the throat to have the blood drained from the body.”
Campaigners have been calling on the closure of the barbaric markets, and last year saw the festival shrink down to just a two-day event.
But this year, despite the threat from Covid-19, the festival is back for 10 days from Sunday, June 21 to Tuesday, June 30.
Video footage of this year’s Yulin dog meat festival shows dozens of animals crammed in small, dirty cages and butchers at several large stalls piled high with dog carcasses.
But restaurant workers told AFP reporters that attendance was down.
“The number of arriving customers has dropped a lot,” one worker said.
Some posts on the Chinese social network Weibo called for the festival to be cancelled entirely after the pandemic, and a recent fresh outbreak of the disease in Beijing linked to a wholesale food market.
But it has gone ahead nonetheless.
After Covid-19 the Chinese government fast-tracked laws banning the consumption and trade of wildlife.
The law does not apply to dog meat, but southern cities Shenzhen and Zhuha not far from Yulin both banned the consumption of dogs in April, becoming the first cities in China to do so.
And last month the agriculture ministry reclassified dogs as companion animals, not livestock, though it did not explicitly prohibit eating them.
Most of the animals killed for the meat trade in China are stolen pets, stolen guard dogs, as well as street dogs grabbed from towns and cities.
The torture and meat festival is not a Chinese ancient tradition, but part of a new ritual.
Lisa Vanderpump from ITVBe’s the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has been campaigning against Yulin since 2014.
She recently filmed The Road to Yulin And Beyond , a 2018 documentary now available on Amazon Prime with her husband Ken and TV personality Sharon Osbourne.
Speaking about Yulin dog-lover Lisa said: “I was incredulous and shocked at the images and the stories behind them… they are some of the most barbaric, repulsive atrocities I have ever seen.
“I have seen images where a beloved golden retriever has been strung up as his limbs have been severed and cooked in front of him.
“Dogs are inhumanely transported in cages with no food or water; they are piled on top of each other, their limbs purposefully broken as they are stuffed into cages.
“Although the dog meat trade is repulsive to me, it is the belief that the torture stimulates the adrenaline and therefore makes the meat more tender that has galvanized us into action.
“The annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival is not just a celebration that looks at dogs as a commodity to be harvested, eaten or sold. It is a celebration of the vicious torture of dogs and 10 days of revelry in their suffering.
“It is also not an ancient tradition with ties into China’s beautiful history and custom – it is a new practice that has evolved in the last ten years, right under our noses.
“Yulin is a thriving cosmopolitan city – it is not a deprived village depending on dog meat for food.
“How the rest of the world has turned a blind eye to this was shocking to me.”