Health experts joined animal rights campaigners in their condemnation of the “inhumane and barbaric” festival where butchers hack slaughtered dogs into slabs of meet and cooks fry the flesh to feed hungry customers. The cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai have already outlawed dog meat consumption and China’s national agricultural ministry has removed dogs from the livestock list and re-categorised them as “companions”.
Animal rights groups hoped these moves would be steps towards a nationwide ban on eating dog meat and the scrapping of the festival in Yulin which traditionally welcomes the summer with a feast of dog and lychees.
But supporters of the annual event swiftly jumped its defence and urged Beijing to protect their rights to eat dog.
Sima Nan, a well-known Chinese social commentator, said: “It’s not appropriate to pass a law to ban dog meat eating.
“Otherwise you cannot stop others from passing laws to forbid the consumption of other animal meats, such as pork and beef.”
Some even suggested the animal rights activists demanding a ban on the Yulin festival were part of an anti-Chinese plot by foreign forces to smear the country over its links to the outbreak of coronavirus last December.
But ocial media calls for a boycott of the festival far outweigh those trying to defending it.
Jeffrey Beri, founder of the No Dogs Left Behind organisation, said: “It is “inhumane and barbaric.”
READ MORE: China in landmark move as dogs now declared as pets and not for eating
His activists save hundreds of dogs every year by raiding slaughterhouses and intercepting trucks.
They say traders steal pets and strays and transport them long distances, mostly to the country’s south.
A volunteer called Ling said: “You feel a kind of achievement because you’ve changed some dog’s life.”
Restaurant worker Chen said: “The number of arriving customers has dropped a lot.”
He said the dog meat restaurant where he works was open as normal this festival without any special events or pricing like in past years.
Some posts on the Chinese social network Weibo called for the festival to be cancelled entirely after COVID-19 and a recent fresh outbreak of the disease in Beijing linked to a wholesale food market.
One user posted: “Is it not enough that the festival is infamous throughout the world?
“Where will food safety become a reality. Stop this damn festival at once.”
A proposal for China’s first nationwide law banning animal cruelty received wide public support during the annual parliamentary session in May.
But Chen said neither police nor the government had ordered his restaurant to stop selling dog meat as a result of the animal’s reclassification as pets.