Animal activists claimed 400 dogs and 200 cat carcasses were being sold every day in the Chinese city of Yulin, which is hosting a dog meat festival next week. The annual ten day festival usually attracts thousands of visitors and is a celebration where people eat dog meat and lychee. China has had to rethink its attitude to animals following the outbreak of COVID-19.
The virus is thought to have started from bats, which crossed into humans in a market in Wuhan.
Dr Peter Li, China policy specialist at Humane Society International, told Sky News: “We understand that pandemics are caused by a huge concentration of animals of different species – animals with compromised immune systems.
“A lot of dogs are such animals, in great concentration, and with huge psychological and physical problems.
“Dog meat is a potential breeding ground for a pandemic.”
China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural affairs changed the classification of dogs from livestock to companions.
Dr Li said: “In the long run, it is really important that China starts legislating a national law to ban the dog meat industry.
“Because this industry is supported by a host of illegal and immoral activities against China’s own laws, and for China’s reputation and for the safety of the people, and also for the protection of minors, it must be ended.”
Some animal rights activists are optimistic things could change in the future.
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One of the campaigners, Jennifer Chen, said: “I can’t believe that anyone would even want to eat these adorable little darlings.
“My hands were trembling when I took the first puppy out of the cage.
Authorities in Beijing shut down wet markets after COVID-19 was linked to the Hunan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
However, they have been able to resume trading from April.