WARNING - DISTRESSING IMAGES: More than 60 dogs on their way to a slaughterhouse for a dog meat festival in China have been intercepted and saved by activists.
According to the Humane Society, 68 dogs were packed in a truck without food or water, headed to a slaughterhouse in Yulin, China, as the controversial Yulin Summer Solstice Festival begins for 2021.
Most people in China do not eat dogs and the Humane Society cited a 2017 survey which indicated more than 70 per cent of people living in Yulin do not eat dog meat.
"The truth is that most Chinese people, including those in Yulin, don’t eat dogs," Dr Peter Li, China policy specialist for Humane Society International said.
"The suffering of these animals in Yulin is of course a tragedy, but we need to be calling for an end to this brutal trade every day across China, not just a few days in June in one city."
Every year ahead of the festival activists raid slaughterhouses and intercept trucks to save the dogs.
The Human Society said in addition to being deprived of food and water, the rescued dogs were found crammed tightly into rusty wire cages, hardly able to move, suffocating, panting and traumatised.
Many of the rescued dogs had poor physical health and infected eyes.
Some of the dogs exhibited behaviours which indicated to activists they were stolen pets.
Guangxi activist Liang Jia, said it was "frustrating" watching the trucks of dogs arrive in Yulin. Authorities were meant to be stopping them and confiscating the dogs.
The activists then decided to intervene.
"...We flagged it down and convinced the truck driver to hand over the dogs because they were clearly stolen pets for whom he didn’t have the legally required paperwork," Jia said.
"The dogs offered us their paw just like a pet at home, and they had healthy teeth which means someone was looking after them before they were stolen."
After the activists saved the dogs, they were taken to a facility to rest and be cared for. They will then be taken to a shelter supported by Humane Society International.
"The Yulin authorities have a responsibility to protect public health, even if they don’t also care about the animals like we do," Jia added.
"These poor dogs look sick, and thankfully now they will receive veterinary care, but who knows what diseases they could carry that would end up in the food market.”
Dr Li said activists like Jia are typical of the younger generation in China who oppose the cat and meat trade.
"Thankfully these 68 dogs are now safe after what must have been a terrifying ordeal, but for thousands more dogs in Yulin and millions across the country, the cruelty continues," he said.
"Through dog theft, illegal trans-provincial transport and inhumane slaughter, the trade not only subjects animals to suffering but also risks public health with the potential for the spread of rabies and other diseases.
"These are compelling reasons for the Chinese authorities to end this trade once and for all.”
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