China's dog meat festival is open for business despite a government campaign aimed at improving animal welfare and mitigating public health threats.
The 10-day festival in Yulin is attended by thousands of people who go to browse dogs cramped up in small cages. Many festival attendees buy poorly treated dogs to use their meat for eating.
Attendee numbers this year have dropped and activists are hoping the festival will be the last of its kind reports Reuters.
Peter Li, China policy specialist with the Humane Society International, an animal rights group, told Reuters he hopes Yulin will change not only for the sake of the animals but for the health and safety of its people.
“Allowing mass gatherings to trade in and consume dog meat in crowded markets and restaurants in the name of a festival poses a significant public health risk.” Li said.
China has been forced to evaluate its relationship with animals after a wildlife market in Wuhan was identified as ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 virus is believed to have originated in horseshoe bats before transmitting to humans.
The government is writing up new laws aimed at outlawing wildlife trade and protecting pets.
The Chinese agriculture ministry has made the decision to classify dogs as pets rather than livestock and Shenzhen became the first Chinese city to ban dog meat consumption.
Activists hope steps like these will mean there is no dog meat festival next year. The ultimate goal is to have a countrywide ban on the consumption of dog meat.
Zhang Qianqian, an animal rights activist who was in Yulin at the time of this year's festival told Reuters, “From what we understand from our conversations with meat sellers, leaders have said the consumption of dog meat won't be allowed in the future.”
“But banning dog-meat consumption is going to be hard and will take some time.”