On June 22 the southwestern Chinese city of Yulin in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region celebrated the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, amid growing domestic and international criticism.

As of 2pm Monday a petition to ban the dog meat festival on change.org has attracted over 1.38 million signatures. The petition is addressed to Guangxi’s Deputy Communist Party Chief Chen Wu, as well as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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On Twitter, hashtags such as #stopyulin2015 and #stopyulinforever have been trending since May, with stars like Vampire Diaries‘ Ian Somerhalder, who has a huge fan base in China, joining the appeal.

Criticism from both home and abroad has not silenced those angered by the outcry. Hong Kong singer and actress Karen Mok received abusive comments on her Weibo and Facebook pages after she issued a call to end the trade.

Defenders of dog meat have argued that it is no different from chicken or pork. Others have called not for a ban but more regulation to help end the cruelty and pet abduction associated with the trade.

According to Apple Daily, reporters were hassled on Sunday as they attempted to document the scenes of slaughter at Yulin’s Dongkou Market, where most of the dog meat trading is carried out. Many were forced to delete photos on their cameras before they were allowed to leave.

Sales of dog meat have fallen this year as the local government cracks down on illegal dog trading, according to Xinhua. Four restaurants selling dog meat were shut down and 17 others “closed on their own due to pressure,” the state-run news agency said.

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A small dog about to be slaughtered in China. Photo: 风雨中的修行者 via Weibo.

Citing government data, the report stated that sales of dog meat in the local market dropped by around 70 percent between May and June 16 compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, 48 restaurants throughout the city continue to sell dog meat.

According to An Xiang, director of Dexiang Law Firm in Beijing, food safety officials in Yulin told a group of lawyers in April that the government would ban the dog meat festival. A video posted on his Weibo microblog shows Li Junqing, party chief of Yulin’s Food and Drug Administration, vowing to clamp down on businesses that hold dog meat festivals.

Photo: winniesa

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Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.