Around 10,000 dogs are killed each year during the Yulin dog meat festival in Guangxi province, southern China. The animals are commonly beaten or even skinned alive before being killed and cooked. Today, there are a number campaigns going on that are committed to stopping the practice.
A 65-year-old retired teacher from the northeastern port city of Tianjin, China has devoted the last two decades of her life to the saving of stray dogs and cats, which face starvation and sickness living on the streets. What’s more, she wants to help to stop the butchering of dogs that occurs every year during the Yulin dog meat festival.
“It’s their custom to eat dog meat and I don’t want to change everything”, said Yang. “I just hope that I can enlighten them by what I’m doing, ” she told The Mirror.
Yang Xiaoyun, avowed Buddhist, hopes to enlighten the festival participants by her actions to rescue and take care of stray dogs who often become victims in the festival of dog meat. Currently, she runs a dog shelter called, Common Home, on a farm outside the city of Tianjin, where she cares for around 1,500 dogs, and 200 cats, which she regards as her children.
“I believe in Buddhism. All lives are equal. If they die from sickness, they will be able to go on to the next life. If you put them to sleep, they can’t go on to the next life. A natural death can lead to reincarnation,” she told HandinhandwithAsia.
She has been taking care of stray animals for over 20 years—ever since her husband died in 1995. While contemplating suicide at that time, Yang discovered a stray helpless kitten in a ditch, and found a new reason for living. She has been rescuing stray animals ever since. So far, she has saved 3,500 dogs in her life.
In order to keep the effort going, she was forced to spend all of the insurance money she received after her husband died to provide food and care for the animals.
In 2006, she had to sell two of her properties as well—including the house which was supposed to go to her son as a wedding gift. She is now dependent on donations of food and money in order to keep the shelter going.
Running the shelter has taken its toll however. She has had to go into debt, and has been ostracized by family and friends. She has had to move ten times because of neighbors who could not stand the smell of such a crowd of animals. It has been very difficult for Yang, though she remains committed.
She is now planning to set up a shelter in Yulin where the dog meat festival takes place.
In support of Yang’s efforts, nearly 4 million people have signed a petition to put a stop to the Yulin dog meat festival. An online campaign with the hashtag #StopYulin2015 has also gone viral. Yang says that no matter how hard or exhausting it is, she will continue her initiative no matter what.
Although some claim the tradition of eating dog meat goes back hundreds of years in China, a non-government organization, China Dialogue says that it’s just an excuse used by those who are in favor of the practice.
The selfless efforts of this elderly lady are worth appreciating; she has set an inspiring example for others to follow!