In a victory for animal rights activists — and dogs — China will ban dog meat sales at festival

Chinese authorities have banned dog meat sales at the country’s notorious Yulin dog-eating festival, two U.S. nonprofit organizations reported Wednesday.

The annual festival in Yulin — a prefecture-level city in southwest China’s Guangxi province — has in recent years emerged as a lightning rod for animal rights activism, granting the sleepy city a degree of global infamy. Activists say thousands of dogs — some of them abducted pets — are slaughtered at the festival each year; they’re served alongside lychees and grain alcohol to mark the summer solstice.

The Yulin government has banned the city’s dog meat vendors from selling the meat for one week starting June 15, the U.S.-based Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project and Humane Society International (HSI) said in a joint statement, citing unidentified local contacts. The 10-day festival is slated to begin on June 21.

“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” Andrea Gung, executive director of the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, said in the statement. “I have visited Yulin many times in the last two years. This ban is consistent with my experience that Yulin and the rest of the country are changing for the better.”

The organizations attributed the change to Yulin’s new Communist Party secretary, Mo Gongming, who reportedly wants to improve Yulin’s national and international image. Penalties, they said, include a fine of up to $14,500 and jail time.

The report could not be independently verified. A man who answered the phone at the Yulin municipal government, has never openly supported the festival, denied that it even existed. “There’s never been a dog meat festival in Yulin,” said the man, who only gave his surname, Luo. (The festival’s existence is well-documented).

People in parts of southern and northeastern China have prized dog meat for centuries, considering it a delicacy with “heating qualities” that make it comforting on cool days.

Yet, as China becomes wealthier — and more exposed to foreign ideas — its attitudes toward dogs are shifting. Dogs have become popular pets among the country’s burgeoning middle and upper classes; in major cities, it’s common to see poodles, Pekingese, golden retrievers and huskies bouncing through public parks, some dressed by their owners in doggie clothing.

Peter Li, a China policy specialist at HSI, said that the festival’s dog meat sales have dropped each year since 2014, but will probably continue despite the ban.

“It won’t be public resistance — like, ‘you don’t want us to sell, but we still will’ — but they’ll probably do it secretly,” he said. “They’ll probably sell it at night, or they’ll supply dog meat to restaurants. They just won’t sell it at the market.”

He added that the organization received “oral notice” of the ban from local…

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