LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to back state and federal efforts aimed at ending the torture of dogs and cats for human consumption in China and South Korea.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended the action in anticipation of a dog meat festival set for June 21 in Yulin, Guangxi, China.
“As many as 10,000 dogs, some of which are stolen pets, are skinned alive, butchered and eaten to mark the summer solstice during this 10-day event,” Solis stated in her motion. [Read it here.]
One of the effort’s most high-profile advocates issued a statement through Solis’ office.
“The way these precious animals are beaten, slaughtered and consumed is absolutely horrible,” said Lisa Vanderpump, one of Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and co-founder of the Vanderpump Dog Foundation. [See Vanderpump’s PSA above.]
“I’ve been working for more than a year alongside my husband, Ken Todd, and my partner, Dr. John Sessa, to bring awareness and end the Yulin Dog Meat Festival through our foundation,” Vanderpump said. “To have more support condemning this atrocity is what we need to create the momentum for a more humane world for dogs worldwide.”
Animal rights groups say even the trip to the festival amounts to torture.
“Hundreds of animals at a time are crammed together in cages and drive – – sometimes for days — to their deaths,” according to the nonprofit Humane Society International’s website. “They are often sick or injured, and many die from shock, suffocation, dehydration or heatstroke long before they reach their destination. Those who survive the journey face a brutal and terrifying ordeal: being beaten to death or sometimes, even boiled alive at a slaughterhouse or market.”
Some people believe that eating dog meat will help stave off summer heat, while others follow the practice to enhance male virility and stamina. The dog’s suffering is said to enhance the quality of the meat.
“They think that the more they torture the dog, the adrenaline is going to make the meat taste better,” Valarie Ianniello of the Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation told the board.
Some residents of Yulin have defended the practice of eating dogs, calling activists hypocrites and questioning why they don’t condemn the American consumption of beef, given that cows are sacred in India, for example.
“I understand the other point of view,” a then-24-year-old university graduate named Tang Chengfei told the New York Times at the city’s 2015 festival. “Many people feel a special bond with dogs. But we grew up around dog meat. For us, it’s normal.”
Others point to the conditions in which cows, chickens and pigs are raised in industrial farms in the U.S.
“Complaints (about eating dogs) are justified when they come from vegans who are equally upset about the conditions of pigs and cows in western industrial farms,” British philosopher Julian Baggini wrote in an editorial for CNN last year. “But they are simply hypocritical when they come from carnivores who happily eat intensively reared pigs, or even from vegetarians whose milk and cheese comes from cattle kept in such poor conditions that large swathes of the herds are lame.”
Some activists separate the issue of torture from that of consumption.
Dogs are farmed in South Korea to meet much of the demand, which activists put at 2 million canines annually.
But animal rights groups say dog farms are rare in China, due to high costs, and that most of the animals eaten there are strays, stolen or bought from dog shelters and retailers.
China is estimated to account for 10 of the 30 million dogs slaughtered worldwide each year, though only a minority of residents — about 20 percent — eat dog meat, according to the Humane Society International.
“This isn’t a cultural issue as much as many people believe it is,” Ianniello said.
Many Chinese people have been vocal in their opposition to dog meat festivals and social media campaigns condemning the practice have proliferated, apparently unchecked by Chinese government censors.
In 2015, the city of Yulin said it was not a sponsor of the festival and that year, 20 percent fewer dogs were killed, according to the organization Stop Yulin Forever.
Solis highlighted House Resolution 30, authored by Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., which condemns the Yulin festival and urges China to end the dog trade – – as one piece of legislation county lobbyists could now support.
While many advocates have focused on dogs, Solis said cats are often boiled alive to make health tonics.
Solis quoted Mahatma Gandhi in her motion, saying The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” adding, “The cruelty found in the dog meat trade is barbaric and must be ended immediately.”