Disclaimer: Before I begin this article, I will note that it is in no way my intent to pass judgment or blame on any culture or nation therein. The sole purpose and intention is to bring to light a celebrated festival that is less than one month away, and to spotlight care centers for animals within the city of Chiang Mai.
As early as the beginning of April, were the early orchestrations of a certain festival underway. The Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival has come to town once again! I have always assumed this to be categorized under the blanket of “cultural things” that I’m simply not used to, but I’ve come to understand more from both sides.
While the consumption of dog (and cat) began in China over more than four hundred years ago, the infamous dog eating festival of Yulin, China really only began in the very recent 2010. Reports estimate the nation’s population will consume up to 20 million dogs per year, the ten-day festival of Yulin has been steadily decreasing from 10,000 – 15,000 to the questionably low number of 1,000. The idea of eating dog meat and lychees during the June summer solstice (the hottest time of the year) is meant to ward off the summer heat and cool the body’s temperature. While some will say that this has been going on for centuries (partly true) and is culturally acceptable (sure), others will argue that the festival was only created as a source of revenue for the city of Yulin, which government officials will continue to deny and in no way commercialize the event.
Now, I understand in some parts of the world, the necessity of EATING will outweigh what the eater is willing to consume—that can be anything from beef or chicken to rat or whale. The spectrum of food source varies from country to country, people to people. Yes, some places have it better than others. But when it comes to reveling in the brutal torture of your meal before guzzling it down, eyebrows should be raised. From the very onset the animals are paraded through streets with little to no room in cages, skinned and boiled alive, and beaten to death. The meat is said to taste much better with adrenaline soaked throughout or blood mixing with the meat. Sometimes, these dogs are even reported as being stolen household pets. Cruelty aside, what are the health concerns on the human body when the eaten animals are already sick and then prepared and sold in less than acceptable arenas? Perhaps a rise of rabies, cholera, and others are in order?
One of the biggest defenses of the Yulin celebrations is a simple call to hypocrisy: people cannot become outraged with the eating of dog meat if they continue their carnivorous eating. Backers of the event have said that it is only okay to voice opinions on the subject if living a vegan lifestyle. As a hearty meat eater, I am often conflicted with my choices of eating meat often (mainly because I HAVE the choice). While I have eaten dog, cat, and rat before, I don’t think I would choose to again, given it were my choice. I certainly couldn’t attend this event in Yulin.
So is there a distinct difference between the meats we eat or a reason that we choose to favor our dog counterparts and assume poultry, swine, and cattle are “what’s for dinner”? Not getting too heavy into this because the University of Chicago and several international institutions have done the job already (read here), but yes, there is. In a nutshell, the study has found that through domestication, man and dog have been working together for a lot longer than we thought, two partners evolving on the same path. This is the reason we tend to favor them.
Me? I’m probably equal parts a dog’s man and a cat lady. I adore them both greatly: a dog will sit by your side for endless hours or even how a cat will crave your attention for a split second then be done with you until the next feeding time. If you are like me, you might be interested in some of the great opportunities in and around Chiang Mai to care for these needed friends. With the heavy stuff laid out on the table, here a few places to spend time with our furry friends.
About 30 minutes away from Chiang Mai’s Old City, The Care For Dogs Foundations is a great place to volunteer with dogs! Volunteers are expected to attend a 3 day introduction fee-free course, which starts Wednesdays where you can learn the basics of what lies in store for you. With work ranging from cleaning the dogs’ areas, walking, feeding, and bathing you are sure to have a rewarding time with many pooches. Visit their website for FAQs and to make sure this no-kill shelter is right for you.
The next 2 or 3 week vacation I get, this is where I’ll be! Though this rescue shelter requires more a commitment than a walk-in shelter, you will be rewarded greatly with your efforts. Focusing on the sterilization of pets for a longer, healthier life this foundation also actively seeks volunteers with respective veterinarian backgrounds. If you’re like me and don’t have that background, not to worry we too can be put to work! With accommodation on and off site, being away from the city caring for our four-legged friends sounds like a great vacation! Read more here.
Though elephants are the main feature of the park, the very cool thing ENP provides is sanctuary to many other animals: dogs, cats, birds and other rescued animals. Recently unleashing a myriad of volunteer options, I am spotlighting the dog-centric option. The specific Dog Rescue Program offers you an amazing experience, far away from the city, with accommodation and food provided, you will spend 7 full days at the will of these precious mutts! Again, with cleaning, walking, feeding, bathing, AND removing ticks (don’t worry—there’s a lesson), you will enjoy the time in nature non-stop, begin as a novice and finish like Dr. Doolittle! More here.
A few years ago, I was on a small stretch of highway out of a very small border city when I found myself quickly catching up to a large truck carrying crates upon crates. It wasn’t until I was meters behind the lagging truck did I realize the crates were stuffed with dogs. Hundreds, maybe a thousand dogs. I was told I might see this and knew where they were heading. While the Yulin festival is being tackled by celebrities and animal societies around the globe, we might feel helpless sometimes in the fight against animal cruelty. I seldom believe any online petitions that suggest they are fighting these battles, but would prefer to do my part hands on, where these animals can be helped or offered a happier life now. As for my addiction to BBQ chicken and bacon cheeseburgers, I’m working on that too.