By Gareth Axenderrie
There are few faux outrages more ridiculous than that directed at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Every year, images of dogs turned into meat circulate social media feeds. We then tap our keyboards arguing that the Chinese are cruel and barbaric. We may go on to sign and share a petition that nobody will listen to. Then we forget about it, content that our virtue signalling proves we’re wholesome protectors of our canine friends.
I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. If you do it again this year, you’re just an ethnocentric hypocrite who should direct some of that soap-box rhetoric at the person staring back at you in the mirror.
Dogs are no more sacred than a burger in the Taf, or the kebab you demolished at 3am last weekend.
We are huge animal lovers here in the UK, but we have become detached from what eating meat actually means. When you buy your post-gym chicken breast, or that steak that your loan doesn’t cater for, you’re hiding behind purchasing a product wrapped in plastic on a supermarket shelf. Behind the plastic is an unimaginable world of suffering.
Of all the chicken we produce and consume, only 5% is free range. That means that most of it has endured a short and painful life, probably never receiving real sunlight, spending most of its time being attacked and in pain in an overcrowded cage where a lack of movement means more breast for your buck.
What about pigs? Most studies suggest that pigs are just as intelligent as your dog, based on their ability to interact with their environment, their individual personalities and their range of complex emotions. Yet pigs are possibly the most horrifically treated of all the animals that end up as food on our plates. Sows are trapped in tiny enclosures, inseminated time and time again to produce piglets that live for no longer than six months before they’re sliced up. For an animal that naturally lives outdoors, it’s a travesty that only 3% of the 10 million pigs slaughtered in the UK every year spend their lives outdoors.
We may be a dog loving nation, but we have a long way to go before we point the finger at others.
According to figures released by Dog’s Trust, 47,596 dogs were abandoned in the UK in 2015. Of these, 5,142 were euthanised by local authorities. That’s one dog killed every two minutes because nobody gives a toss. Despite this, we still pay through the nose for breeds of dog that we find more desirable than others. Breeds like retrievers, spaniels and pugs are bred for maximum profit – often in too small a genepool – just so Mr and Mrs Middle Class can sit in their suburban semi-detached monotony, complete with designer pooch. Meanwhile, on streets and in shelters, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and sad looking mongrels await death row.
Our ethnocentric outrage at the Chinese for having a small-scale dog meat festival is based upon hypocrisy. Around 10,000 dogs are eaten there each June, but that number is dwarfed by the number that we abandon as Brits. It is incomparable to the millions of suffering sows and traumatised chickens that we turn into bacon sandwiches and nuggets.
Next time you find yourself about to engage in faux outrage at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, get a grip. Focus on damage your own society is doing to the animals you profess to care about. And remember, you eat far more pigs, cows and chickens than some poor soul in Guangxi could ever dream of.