Butchers in China Still Selling Dogs for Consumption, Despite Change to Chinese Laws
Dogs reclassified as 'companion animals' yet dog-eating festival planned this weekend
Butchers in China are still selling dogs for human consumption, despite recent changes to Chinese laws that reclassified canines as "companion animals" instead of livestock.
Chinese wet markets are still chopping and selling dog carcasses ahead of the notorious annual Yulin dog-eating meat festival.
The ongoing practice has been exposed by animal rights campaigners, who filmed heart-breaking footage this month at a specialized dog meat market on the outskirts of Yulin.
The activists were able to rescue ten puppies alive from another market outside the city.
Beijing last month signaled it may move to ban the consumption of canine meat after passing legislation to remove dogs from its official list of livestock.
However, while the change restricts the sale of the animals, the government is yet to issue an order to forbid the eating of dogs in the country.
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs called for "some traditional customs about dogs" to change in the country and stressed that dogs were "companion, rescue, and service animals."
The latest shocking scenes came from an eye-witness report sent by activists to animal protection organization Humane Society International (HSI), the group said.
According to the insiders, most of Yulin's dog meat stalls and shops scattered around the city have relocated to one centralized area called the Nanchao market, which offers predominantly dog meat rather than live dogs.
The authorities were likely hoping to monitor and manage the dog meat trade more easily through the move, according to HSI.
The Yulin dog meat festival, held every year on the summer solstice, is one of the most controversial food festivals in the world.
The event sees thousands of dogs cruelly killed, skinned, and cooked with blow-torches before being eaten by the locals.
Previously, most of the slaughtering and selling of dogs took place in the infamous Dongkou market in downtown.
The activists said that Dongkou appeared relatively empty this year by comparison.
The activists rescued 10 "friendly and innocent" puppies after spotting live pooches being caged and ready to be slaughtered at a market outside Yulin.
One of the rescuers, Jenifer Chen, said she was shocked by what she saw there.
She described: "I can't believe that anyone would even want to eat these adorable little darlings.
"My hands were trembling when I took the first puppy out of the cage.
"He kept licking my hands, and unbeknown to him I could easily have been a dog meat eater."
Ms. Chen called on the Yulin officials to follow the central government's message and halt the trade.
She urged: "Like the Chinese government said, these puppies are companions not livestock, and cities like Yulin should put those words into practice and end this shameful dog meat trade."
HSI also renewed its appeal for the Yulin government to crack down on the business.
Dr. Peter Li, China's policy specialist for HSI, said: "Momentum is building in China to tackle the dog and cat meat trades, and while I don't think anyone expects Yulin's dog meat trade to close up overnight, what the activists witnessed could indicate that things are shifting even in Yulin."
He added: "I do hope Yulin will change not only for the sake of the animals but also for the health and safety of its people.
"With new cases of COVID-19 tied to a Beijing market, 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."
The Chinese agricultural ministry no longer considers dogs as livestock or poultry in the latest version of the country's Directory of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry.
Only the animals on the list can be bred, raised, traded, and transported for commercial purposes in China, according to China's Animal Husbandry Law.
This means the act can potentially prevent around 10million dogs from being killed for their meat every year in the country.
A spokesperson from the ministry said that dogs had been domesticated for a long time in the country and they had "close relationships" with humans.
The spokesperson told reporters: "With the progress of the times, humans' understanding of civilization and dining habits have changed constantly.
"Some traditional customs about dogs will change too."
The idea of "traditional customs" has been used as one of the explanations for the existence of the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
The spokesperson highlighted that it was an international consensus not to classify dogs as livestock.
He said more policies regarding dogs would be rolled out in the future without giving details.
The new directory went into effect on May 27.
Two Chinese cities, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, have banned the eating of dogs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In late February, China issued a temporary ban on all trade and consumption of wild animals - a practice believed responsible for the global crisis.