An act of bravery has saved 68 dogs just hours before slaughter, and we have local animal activists in China to thank. The rescue happened outside the city of Yulin, the site of the infamous dog meat “festival,” which takes place each year as the summer solstice begins.

Activists flagged down a truck packed with dogs on the way to Yulin’s slaughterhouses and convinced the driver to hand over the dogs. When the truck halted, the activists found 68 panting and exhausted dogs crammed tightly in rusty cages, suffering from extreme heat and without food or water. As rescuers approached, the otherwise lethargic dogs began to show signs of typical household pets, such as reaching out their paws to shake hands. Most of them looked like dogs who were stolen from their families.

Chinese activists intercept a truck loaded with 68 dogs just outside Yulin, China. June 2021. NO PHOTO CREDIT NECESSARY (photos were taken by Guangxi activists).
The truck loaded with 68 dogs that Chinese activists intercepted just outside Yulin, China

The dogs have now arrived safely at a facility supported by Humane Society International to rest, recover and receive veterinary care. On the journey, one dog even gave birth to two puppies.

The so-called Yulin Dog Meat Festival was created by the local dog meat traders in 2010 to boost flagging sales. Since day one of its inception, Chinese activists were the first to stand up against the festival and they are still determined to end it along with the larger dog meat trade. The campaign within China to end the dog and cat meat trade have led to some milestone accomplishments. In April 2020, Shenzhen and Zhuhai in South China became the first mainland cities to outlaw dog and cat meat sales and consumption. Equally significantly, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs officially announced that dogs are companion animals and not “livestock” for eating.

To add to this momentum and help stop the supply of dogs to slaughterhouses where it starts, activists have been urging Yulin authorities to set up more highway checkpoints to stop and confiscate dogs from dog transport trucks. Chinese animal protection groups have sent petitions to the national and local authorities calling for an end to the mass dog slaughter in Yulin and the trade across the country in the interest of public health, zoonotic disease outbreak and food safety. China has laws and regulations that can be used to stop the dog meat trade. But in the absence of official enforcement, as in this case, activists are willing to take action to save the dogs themselves.

Dogs saved from Yulin 2021 receive care from HSI partner group
A dog rescued from Yulin gave birth during her transport to HSI's partner shelter.

We recently detailed how local activism is really the heart of the movement to stop the dog meat trade in China. The criticism of the dog meat trade in Yulin and other cities across the country has been led by Chinese people. Local activists have made the Yulin festival the most visible manifestation of a much larger year-round meat trade that claims the lives of some ten million dogs and four million cats each year throughout China.

We are so grateful to the activists on the ground who saved these dogs and gave them back the possibility of happy futures. These dogs, including those two newborn puppies, will get a chance to live the lives all dogs and cats deserve.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.