Activists have claimed that the local government in Yulin, Guangxi, is set to ban the sale of dog meat at the city’s notorious annual festival just weeks before it commences on June 21.

Thousands of animals are killed every year for the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, which began in 2010 as a way to boost sales, according to mainland paper Southern Metropolis Daily.

Los Angeles-based animal rights group Duo Duo Project said on Wednesday that the Yulin government is set to ban restaurants, street vendors and market traders from selling dog meat at this year’s event.

File photo: AP images for HSI.

The news was reported to the group by Chinese activists and confirmed by three traders at the city’s largest dog meat market, according to a press release issued jointly with the Humane Society International.

The temporary ban will reportedly come into effect on June 15, a week before the festival begins. Vendors in violation of the ban risk fines of up to 100,000 RMB (HK$112,995) and possible arrest, according to the animal rights groups.

“The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet, but if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolise China’s crime-fuelled dog meat trade,” Peter Li, China Policy Expert at HSI, said.

The two groups noted that dogs are still likely to be slaughtered prior to the event, but considers it evidence of the growing political will in China to clamp down on the dog meat trade.

dog meat festival
Photo: Animals Asia.

“As opposition to this trade has grown within China and across the world, much focus has been placed on the Yulin festival and so it is significant politically that the authorities are taking the outrage to curb this cruelty seriously,” Li said.

At its height, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 dogs were killed at Yulin, a number that has reduced to 2,000 to 3,000 in recent years, according to HSI. Most of the dogs are stolen pets and strays grabbed from the streets.

People eating at Yulin Dog Meat Festival
People eating at Yulin Dog Meat Festival Photo: Animals Asia via flickr.

China’s Foreign Ministry said last year that the local government has never supported, organised or hosted the festival. The eating of lychee and dog meat on the summer solstice is a eating habit of local residents, and there were no celebrations that took place in the name of consuming dog meat, a spokesperson said.

According to state news agency Xinhua, a recent survey of 2,000 people in cities across the country found that 64 per cent supported banning the Yulin festival, and 51.7 per cent thought the dog meat trade should be completely banned, and 69.5 per cent had never eaten dog meat.

HKFP has contacted the local authorities for comment.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.