Weibo to the rescue for China’s dogs

Guest post by chinadialogue intern Li Cheng. 

According to a September 19 report in Qiangjiang Evening News, a large-scale public boycott of the Jinhua Dog Meat Festival, organised on Weibo (“Chinese Twitter”), has led the Qiangxi township government in the eastern Chinese city of Jinhua to permanently cancel its lakeside “Dog Meat Festival”. Countless dogs have likely been saved. 

Early this month, someone posted a photograph of the “Jinhua Lakeside Dog Meat Festival” on the internet; a grim scene of bloody slaughter. According to one internet user, on the day of the “festival”, many dogs would be gathered up and butchered together, before being laid out in a banquet for friends and family. According to legend, this custom dates back to the time of Hong Wu, the first Ming emperor, over 600 years ago. 

A succession of animal protection groups and celebrities posted micro-blog messages about boycotting the “Jinhua Dog Meat Festival”, prompting a fierce reaction from internet users. Within a few days, thousands of people had re-posted the call for boycott, discussing, denouncing and condemning the cruel and bloody festival. The netizens focused on two actions: first, opposing the brutal mistreatment and killing of the dogs, including merchants butchering dogs in the middle of the street so as to solicit customers; and, second, questioning the source of the dogs – in recent years, many traders have reportedly been buying diseased dogs, as well as poisoning and stealing other people’s animals.

The local government began to pay heed to the fury online. After cadres and representatives from Yu village held a meeting to discuss the issue, the local government decided to cancel the lakeside Dog Meat Festival, originally planned to run from October 18 to 20. The Qianjiang Evening News report featured interesting details about the meeting, including the fact that during the discussion the county party committee secretary held in his hand 14 pieces of paper, each containing netizen comments on the “Dog Meat Festival”. 

A few months earlier, Beijing netizens had started a “save a dog by hitchhiking” movement on Weibo. More and more Chinese people are paying attention to animal welfare, and Weibo has became a new platform for mobilisation, though there are still many who believe eating dogs is a defensible part of local culture and those who oppose eating dog meat are just fanning flames.  

Chakme, from Tibet, said on Weibo that dogs have saved countless people’s lives, and never injured mankind: when people have been in the midst of disaster or struggling with poverty, dogs have always been there, guarding humanity; none of the touching stories about people and dogs are fabricated, Chakme said. “I will always protest cruel events such as the ‘Dog Meat Festival’ and bull fights on behalf of innocent animals!” In another post, Beijing University professor Lu Zhi asked: “Can mankind break the mould and stop biting the hand that feeds it?”  

Translated by chinadialogue intern Paul Carsten.