Animal rights protesters who targeted Chinese-Americans to protest China’s Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in New York City’s Chinatown are now being criticized as misguided and ignorant hypocrites.
Last Friday, a group of animal activists and their dogs gathered in Chinatown to rally against the controversial festival in China that revolves around dog meat consumption. According to New York Daily News, the group of around 20 protesters marched in front of the Wyndham Hotel on Bowery street with about 15 dogs decked in purple accessories. The color is intended to raise awareness of animal abuse.
The Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, which is not sanctioned by the Chinese government, was inaugurated in 2010 and intended as a celebration of the centuries-old tradition in parts of the country where dog meat is viewed as a delicacy.
The rally was an attempt to persuade the Chinese government to ban the annual dog slaughter, according to Elizabeth Shafiroff, founder of Global Strays. She said:
“We don’t think the festival is going to stop this year, but we want the Chinese government to be more involved in preventing dogs from being tortured all over. We don’t believe torturing an animal for food is acceptable so we’re trying to bring awareness to this.”
“We want to do something. New York City is one of the best cities in the world and people in the world look to New York City.”
“We are calling for a ban on dog meat in China.”
According to Shafiroff, her organization initially planned to travel to Yulin, China to protest the actual festival, but visa complications prevented them from going, making New York’s Chinatown the closest thing they can get to actual China.
Another protester, Paul Llobell, captain with the Suffolk County SPCA, who attended the rally in Chinatown, told New York Daily News:
“That’s not how we roll in our country. If they… bring that tradition to our country, they’ll be investigated and will go to jail.”
However, the protest has also received backlash from critics not only for their hypocrisy in eating the meat of other animals in the U.S., but for wrongfully targeting Chinese-Americans in their ignorance-driven moral policing while completely over-looking the work of Chinese animal right groups.
One critic of the rally pointed out the hypocrisy among protesters who consume meat of other animals, yet give dogs preferential treatment. The author wrote on Reappropriate:
“While I have never consumed dog meat, I can find nothing more (or less) unethical about eating canines than any other meat considered acceptable for consumption in the West. Animals are not by nature categorized as ‘food animals’ or ‘companion animals’ — this is a human conceit.”
The critic said that there were other ways activists could help the cause without insinuating xenophobia. There are a number of Chinese animal activist groups in China that are working towards the same goal. Instead, the protesters’ approach raised a different debate.
“I get that activists angered about the Yulin festival wanted to do something about it. But they could have raised money or posted selfies supporting the work of Chinese animal rights groups. They could have written letters to the Chinese government, or even protested outside of New York City’s Chinese consulate where they could speak to the actual Chinese government. They didn’t need to confuse the difference between Chinese and Chinese American with their moral scolding. They didn’t need to trample over the work of Chinese animal rights activists by reinforcing the narrative of Eastern backwards-ness and Western enlightenment.
“Yet, animal rights activists rarely confront — or even acknowledge — how their actions blur the lines between a reasonable conversation about animal rights and historic anti-Asian stereotypes.
“And they sure didn’t need to invoke the language of xenophobia with their ‘don’t bring this to our country’ rhetoric. Chinese Americans are Americans. Most of us aren’t really down to eat dog; and oh, by the way, this is our country too.”
Earlier this week, Humane Society International reported that they rescued 29 dogs and five cats from cages in Yulin before the festival began on June 21. Animal rights advocates claim the festival began in Yulin as a way to boost dog meat sales. The event results in the slaughter of approximately 10,000 to 15,000 dogs annually.