Chinese officials are set to ban the sale of dog meat at the notorious Yulin festival, activists have claimed.
Thousands of animals are slaughtered every year at the event, which was founded by traders in 2010 hoping to boost sales. But a new Communist party official wants to change image of the city and turn into a cultural hub, activists told The Independent.
Traders who break the law would be subject to fines of up to 100,000 yuan (£11,202) and risk arrest, according to the Humane Society International, who cited numerous sources in Yulin.
Once implemented, the move would be strongest step yet against the dog meat trade in the city, which draws criticism from around the world every year. But the ban is not expected to prevent cats and other animals from being sold at the festival.
“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” said Andrea Gung, executive director of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project.
“This ban is consistent with my experience that Yulin and the rest of the country are changing for the better. I am very impressed that the younger generation in Yulin and in China is as compassionate as their counterparts in the rest of world.”
While the majority of Chinese people don’t eat dogs, the Yulin festival has become a focal point for the country’s trade in canine meat. Around 10 million dogs and four million cats are slaughtered for the meat in China each year.
Tens of thousands of killings occurred in Yulin at the festival’s peak, many of them strays and stolen pets, some still wearing their collars.
But following domestic and international protests, authorities cracked down on the festival and the number of animals slaughtered was reduced. Last year, roadblocks were also introduced in order to regulate the flow of animals into the city.
Now, the ban on the sale of dog meat will affect vendors, market traders and restaurants. The apparent severity of the punishment shows the Chinese authorities are serious about the ban, Wendy Higgins of the Humane Society told The Independent.
“This is a key moment and the strongest indication yet the authorities are serious about this,” she said.
Ms Higgins added: “Implementation will be key. Many of the traders who come in trucks are not local and may not know about the ban. Some travel for days to reach the city.”
The newly appointed Communist Party Secretary for Yulin, Mo Gong Ming, is said to be behind the drive to end the trade, as part of a public relations overhaul.
“We understand this is a personal decision from the new Secretary,” Ms Higgins said. “He wants to turn Yulin into a cultural centre and the festival is obviously at odds with that.”
Duo Duo’s chief Ms Gung congratulated Mr Mo Gong for his “progressive and visionary leadership”.
Peter Li, China Policy specialist at Humane Society International, said: “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.
“Regrettably, many dogs and cats will still be killed for the Yulin festival in advance of the ban, so their suffering is not over yet, but this is certainly a milestone victory and we commend the Yulin authorities for taking this action.”