China's dog meat festival opened this week to protests...and profits


There are plenty of ways for an entrepreneur to make money - and as long as it's legal I've always been a strong advocate of holding back judgment, because who am I to judge how one person earns his or her livelihood, right?  But sometimes, even my efforts not to judge are challenged. Take for example, the vendors, buyers, sellers and restauranteurs who are profiting from this week's Dog Meat Festival, which opened Wednesday in the southern Chinese city of Yulin.

"You shouldn't force people to make choices they don't want to make, the way you wouldn't force someone to be a Christian or a Buddhist or a Muslim," said one dog meat lover in this Channel NewsAsia report, who stressed that "dog meat is the same as any other meat."

A walk through the festival would not be advised for any dog-lover.  Carcasses are on display at many open stalls with "stiff pointy tails, leathery yellow skin, eyes shut and bared teeth as if in a final growl." Dog parts, including livers, are sold alongside with non-canine delicacies like cow tongues and pork hocks.  Apparently, it’s common knowledge that small dogs or dogs that are too fat “don’t taste good.”

Despite a growing number of activists bent on banning the festival, the tradition - which dates back to the Ming Dynasty - continues to be popular. Ten to twenty million dogs are killed for food annually in China, according to the Humane Society International.  Some believe that the meat gives them strength. Regardless, attendance and sales appear to be trending lower as the controversy has grown.

But the festival's many business owners continue to rack up sales by stewing dog meat from steaming woks and serving it up to their customers in plastic bags. The protests have had some impact.  For example, some vendors have changed their "dog meat" signs to "tasty meat" while others are covering up dog images and signs altogether. A number of sellers are operating out of their homes or other locations to keep away from scrutiny. Still, the controversy hasn't stopped some business owners from profiting.

"Business during the festival goes up about ninefold," according to one restaurant owner who told Channel NewsAsia that he sells six dogs a day. "But don't worry, we always manage to have enough dogs."

Not judging. Not judging. Not judging....