A widely condemned dog meat festival opened on Sunday despite the Chinese government’s recent attempts to discourage dog consumption across the country.
The annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival in the southern city of Yulin is scheduled to go on for 10 days in defiance of international criticism.
Humane International Society, one of the event’s fiercest critics, urged the government to halt the festival after activists rescued 10 puppies that were being sold at a market outside Yulin.
“I couldn’t believe that these friendly and innocent puppies would be killed for food if we hadn’t been there by chance, and I can’t believe that anyone would even want to eat these adorable little darlings,” Jenifer Chen, an activist with the group said.
China’s controversial wildlife-farming industry has come under increased scrutiny this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which is believed to have originated in a wet market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
In April, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs excluded dogs from a list of animals that can be farmed for meat. It was the first time ever that the Chinese government explicitly addressed the consumption of dog meat in an official document.
“With the progress of human civilization and the public’s concern and preference for animal protection, dogs have changed from traditional domestic animals to companion animals,” the government said in a draft proposal translated by HSI.
The festival was still underway this week despite the growing efforts to stop it. Event organizers have been accused of snatching thousands of dogs and cats from the streets or from people’s backyards, cramming them into cages and loading them into trucks to bring to the festival every year.
But Dr. Peter Li, the nonprofit’s China policy specialist, said the increasingly controversial nature of the dog meat business is starting to affect thisquestionable culinary habit.
“While some traders told the activists they were doing as much business as possible to make up for lack of sales from January to March due to the coronavirus, others reported that it is now harder to acquire live dogs from outside Guangxi province due to the government’s crackdown on trans-provincial animal transport,” he said in a statement. “Instead of the huge slaughter trucks of previous years bringing in thousands of dogs at a time, they say it is more common now to see small truckloads of mostly locally sourced dogs from nearby towns.”