Juni 2017 – In het Chinese Yulin wordt elk jaar in juni het hondenvleesfestival gehouden. Wereldwijd vinden protesten plaats tegen de gruwelijke en massale slachting van honden. Bij Bont voor Dieren wordt op dit moment onderzocht wat de mogelijkheden zijn om ook vanuit Nederland deze barbaarse activiteiten te stoppen.
Bont voor Dieren stuurde eerder een waarnemer om het leed vast te leggen en om de autoriteiten over te halen te stoppen met de traditie. In 2018 bracht Bont voor Dieren dagelijks een verslag uit.
Tien dagen lang worden honden, maar ook katten, op gruwelijke wijze om het leven gebracht. De honden worden dagenlang gemarteld voordat ze worden gedood. Vaak door ze te koken, te verbranden of te villen. De autoriteiten van Yulin verdedigen dit festival door te beweren dat dit traditie is, maar het hondenvleesfestival bestaat echter pas enkele jaren.
In 2017 waren er veel minder honden dan eerdere jaren. Wij denken dat dat mede kwam de door de overweldigende media aandacht voor het festival. In 2018 was het festival volgens onze waarnemer massaler dan ooit: een enorme stap terug voor de dieren.We hebben heel veel beeldmateriaal en video’s, maar helaas zijn deze veel te schokkend om te laten zien.
Het verslag van waarnemer in Yulin is hier te lezen (Engels).
Yulin 2018, dag 4
Today was the last day in Yulin. We set out to the Dashichang market which we discovered by accident last year. At this market they sell live cats and dogs in cages. This year we found that there were a lot more animals on sale on the street. Because it was a Sunday, most of the vendors were at home but what we saw shocked us. We found plenty of cages full of puppies and kittens and older dogs (not as many as the kittens and the puppies) sold in the heat in cages, no access to shelter or food or water, being sold by the side of the street. The animals were overheating and desperately crying out in panic and fear. Puppies and kittens were manhandled and abused. One particular young puppy was the subject of the most abuse and the poor animal was so petrified and traumatised that he would yelp out in hysterical fear whenever you came near or tried to touch him. The vendor picked up the dog into the air by a rope around the neck and swung the puppy around. He also put other puppies in bags and tied up the bags. One scooter didn’t look where he was driving and drove over a cage of young kittens. Fortunately none of the kittens were hurt but no one found it shocking or disturbing. They even went so far as to laugh. I tried to tell the man to be kind and gentle but he laughed in my face. Many people crowded around us and laughed not only at the distress of the animals, but at our visible distress too.
After almost of month of witnessing relentless cruelty day in and day out, I finally cracked. I wanted to hit one vendor so badly when he started laughing as I started crying. It was all too much. At that moment I felt so alone, so helpless, so angry and so emotionally and psychologically battered.
The scale of cruelty I have witnessed at Yulin this year and the attitude towards this cruelty (which seems to have worsen) has me stunned. I am really REALLY happy to go home tomorrow and I can’t wait to hug my husband and hold my cat and tell her over and over again how much I love her.
Yulin 2018, dag 3
Last night three of our group went out to Yulin to see how busy the restaurant strip is. They reported that it was very quiet – a normal day like any other day of the year – and that no one paid any particular attention to them. It seems as if the festival has changed rhythm and all the main festivities of the festival is concentrated on one day.
At the Donkou market, they were considerably more aggressive than the day before. Yesterday we had free access to the market. Today when they saw us, they immediately started yelling at us in Chinese. We had our cameras ready and shot as much as we can as quick as we can. We went deeper in to the market where we saw masked civets on sale (it’s illegal as they carry SARS) and the one civet in the cage had his/her leg cut off and was clearly suffering. The people deeper in to the market were more tolerant of us filming but the longer we filmed the more unnerved they became and we could see some vendors calling what we assumed to be the police. The atmosphere was hostile so we left.
We then went to the Nanqiao market again and although there wasn’t as many dog carcasses on display as there were the first day and the markets were quiet, dog meat was still being sold and we could openly film without much hostility. At one point I had to quickly exit the market because I felt I was going to throw up. The smell was even worse than before. One of the locals at the market, an ordinary member of the public (i.e. not a vendor) told us that the festival was only one day this year. Unfortunately his English wasn’t good enough to explain why.
Yesterday one taxi driver told us that the amount of dogs killed for the 21stof June was 200.000. This seemed highly improbable. In previous years, it is estimated that between 10.000 and 15.000 are slaughtered annually for the festival alone. This information was also confirmed by the two suspicious activists who told us they were collecting data for a survey. There is no way to accurately gauge the number of dogs killed for this year’s festival. I very much doubt the numbers are as high as 200.000. However, that being said, I am pretty sure that this year’s festival saw more than 10.000 to 15.000 killed.
We wanted to go to a third market which we accidentally stumbled across last year, but we couldn’t find it. They sold live cats and dogs in cages at this market. Tomorrow we will continue to look for the third market where the live animals are sold and we are also going to try and find a slaughterhouse which is apparently located in Beiliu (the suburb next to Yulin and where our hotel is located).
Yulin 2018, dag 2
After a breakfast, we set out to Yulin again. We asked the taxi to drop us off in the back streets. If we had to be dropped off close to the markets, we would have immediately picked up a tail. The best strategy was to split up in to three groups of two. This would mean at least one team won’t pick up a tail and could possibly gain access to the markets before they block off the entrances. Because I knew how they felt about visible cameras, I was wearing an undercover camera.
The Nanqiao market was considerably quieter and more dog carcasses were visible outside on the tables. No one tried to block our views or tell us that we were not wanted there. No one followed us (like they did the day before). We also managed to gain free access to the market inside where previously we were banned. At the market there were some dog carcasses but not as much as the previous day. The market was mostly lined with tables of the most beautiful fruits and veggies. We came across a section where they had a lot of geese, chickens and pigeons and we saw some of the animals killed in front of us. From there we moved on to the Donqou market and there too we had free access with no one blocking our view, trying to prevent us from going in or following us. There were a lot more dog meat than at the Nanqiao market. We wondered around to the back alleys at the market and discovered many other species such as raccoon dogs, different kinds of live seafood, rabbits, etc. The stench was unbearable and at times I felt like throwing up.
We got our footage and then headed back to the hotel as I had an interview with a national news agency in The Netherlands (RTL Nieuws). We also discovered a way to look at the videos the people of Yulin are posting on their WeChat accounts. Through this we could obtain footage of killings of animals happening behind closed doors on private property. These videos were taken by people in Yulin over the last two days and shared on WeChat’s social media platform. All in all today was much, much quieter than yesterday.
Yulin 2018, dag 1
This morning we set out early to the dog meat markets. Dog carcasses are delivered early in the morning and we were hoping to catch the deliveries on film.
Our first stop was the Nanqiao market which is the biggest dog meat market in Yulin. The vendors were already in full action cooking big woks of dog meat. Unless you know what cooked dog meat smells like and unless you look carefully at the pieces of meat to identify pieces of jaw bone or dog snouts (which we saw in some of the woks), you wouldn’t know whether the meat was dog or cow or pig or goat. People immediately started crowding around us and stopping to film us on their cellphones as we as Westerners are oddities. We attracted a lot of attention and there were quite a bit of police present. As per usual, the atmosphere was tense as traders (some of whom I recognised from last year) tried to block us from taking footage or photos. They used umbrellas to block our view as we walked past the vendors outside the Nanqiao market. They also made it clear that they didn’t want us there. Surprisingly, their English improved from last year so communication was easier to understand. I had my camera around my neck but on the whole time to film undercover. They didn’t notice. Because we couldn’t gain entrance, the 6 of us split up in to two groups of three to make it more difficult for the vendors to follow and to cover more bases. The second group took some back alleys and managed to briefly get in to the market. We were in constant communication on WeChat so they alerted us to the fact that they managed to get brief entry (before being thrown out) in to the market. Our group decided to also try and gain entry from the back alleys to see what happens. All entrances were blocked and we were denied entry to the market. We were constantly followed by undercover operatives and the police kept an eye on us the whole time. We made it known to the undercover operatives that we knew we were being followed so they started to back off.
At the back streets of the market there were many, many, many vendors who didn’t mind us openly filming. We remained friendly and collegial at all times which made it easier for us to film and photograph what was going on.
After the Nanqiao market we went to a new market section on the opposite side. This market wasn’t there in any of the previous years. There we ran in to two Chinese activists who showed us photos they took when they managed to get entry to the Nanqiao market. It was easier for them to gain access as they were Chinese and didn’t stand out. They showed us photos and the amount of dog carcasses were staggering. While we were looking at the photos, I got a distress message from one of the members of the other group. They needed back up. We rushed to their location where we were told that they ran in to a few men dragging a dog and following the dog with a stick and knives. They wanted to kill the dog. When the group took out their cameras to film, the men backed off and put the dog behind closed doors and waited for us to leave. The other group left with the two activists to their hotel where they were going to do some planning and gathering intel, while myself and another activists stayed at the site where the dog was being kept. Our presence was preventing them from killing the dog. They eventually left and the other activist and I went back to the Nanqiao market to see whether we could film anyone delivering dog carcasses. All the entry points at the market were guarded by vendors and the police. Since there was nothing more we could do, we went back to the hotel to review the footage and waited for the other group to arrive.
When the group got to the hotel, they told us they were tailed while in the taxi. They had to get out, lose the tail and get another taxi.
In the early evening we went to look how busy the restaurants were. It was insane! There was police everywhere and the streets were brimming with people. The main dog meat restaurant which was closed last year was packed with people crowding around in mass outside the restaurant waiting to get in. In the two years I have been to Yulin previously, I have never seen it so busy. It was demoralising and overwhelming.
Last year, on the first day of the festival, hardly any dog meat was visible other than what was in the woks. This year there is a lot more dog meat and it is the most I have seen since my first visit to Yulin in 2016. A quick search for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival on bing.com (a popular search engine used in China seeing as Google is banned) brings up very little information about the festival and a warning at the bottom of the search results states “some results are removed in response to a notice of local law requirements”. Although I didn’t know what to expect this year, I was hoping that the number attendees would be down (2017 had less attendees than 2016). But unfortunately it seems as if all the change we have forced the Yulin government to make since 2015 have disappeared and that we have taken 10 steps back in the fight to get this festival stopped. The only way we can move forward and apply more pressure is to get more activists on the ground.