DW15_Dog_meat_tradeDOG meat is to be banned – at least temporarily – at the infamous Yulin festival in China following vigorous campaigning by animal welfare groups and general disapproval of the event.

Tens of thousands of dogs are bludgeoned to death at the festival every year, but it now appears that the Government is to prohibit restaurants, street vendors and market traders selling their meat.

Campaigners are hoping the ban will be imposed swiftly and effectively; it has been said it will come into effect on June 15, only a week before the festival is due to begin. Those who break the veto face heavy fines and possible arrest.

Last year, a petition with 11million signatures was presented to the Yulin government in Beijing on behalf of the Society, Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, RaiseUrPaw, Care2 and Avaaz. However, millions of cats are still to be taken to the festival where they will be slaughtered and sold for their meat. More than ten million dogs and four million cats are killed every year across China.

The festival was created in 2010 by dog-meat traders who wanted to boost their flagging sales. The dogs, most strays but also  pets captured on the streets and still wearing collars, are kept in small cages in the heat without food or water and often skinned alive in front of each other. At its height an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 dogs have been killed at the festival; this number is said to have dropped recently to about 3,000.

Campaigners are hailing the ban a victory and say it illustrates growing political will in the country to banish the trade although a spokesman for Humane Society International said the festival ‘wasn’t over 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,” he said. “Millions of dogs and cats are stolen each year, including pets, and driven thousands of miles across China to be bludgeoned to death in front of each other. As opposition to this trade has grown within China and across the world much focus has been placed on the festival and so it is significant politically that the authorities are taking the outrage to curb this cruelty seriously.

“At last year’s festival there were roadblocks set up to deter dog trucks coming in and now this ban signals further progress. Regrettably, many dogs and cats will still be killed for the festival in advance of the ban so their suffering is not over yet, but this is certainly a milestone victory and we commend the authorities for taking this action.”

The society wants authorities to impose a permanent ban and publicise the penalties; they also believe dogs confiscated from meat traders should be housed temporarily in a Government-funded shelter.

Last month Taiwan banned the consumption of dogs and cats, becoming the first Asian country to do so. The legislation prevents eating, buying or possessing their meat and imposed fines of £6,500. Selling it in restaurants has also been outlawed and animal cruelty offences will also now face heavier penalties.

Although China has banned the killing of dogs and cats to be used as meat there is no law penalising it. There was an outcry when representatives of the FCI’s member countries voted in China as the venue for the World Show 2019, with the festival cited as one of the reasons.