Li noted that firm actions by Chinese officials, such as confiscating dog and cats from trucks from coming into Yulin, shutting down slaughterhouses and passing new animal welfare laws in China, are key to curbing the Yulin trade this year and ending the event permanently.
In a statement, Li described the scene on the ground in Yulin, where he's been working in advance of the festival:
"Yulin feels like a place that's holding its breath right now. Business was slow at the Dongkou animal market, and a dreadful slaughterhouse exposed by Humane Society International a couple of months ago was shut down when we returned yesterday. Another slaughterhouse we visited was open but we saw no live animals. The word 'dog' has been painted out or covered with tape on several of the restaurants and slaughterhouses we saw, and a Yulin official told us that, contrary to what has been reported in some media, dog meat sales have in fact been declining continuously.
We're still seeing market stalls and mopeds piled with the typical brown blowtorched bodies of dogs, but as yet nothing like the scale one might expect to see. It's a muted Yulin for sure. The authorities seem nervous and are warning dog and cat traders not to engage with us and alerting government employees to stay away from the dog meat restaurants."
But for the 34 animals who were recently rescued by HSI, all of that horror is behind them. They were taken to shelters, where they're being bathed, fed and cared for.
"Once they realized we weren't there to hurt them, but in fact we would make their suffering stop at last, they very quickly responded with licks and wagging tails," Li said.