China's Yulin Dog Meat Festival Opens Despite Country's Moves Away from the Dog Meat Trade

The summer solstice — this year on June 20 — marks the beginning of the infamous Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China.

Animal rights activists, who have been trying to shut down the festival — where live and dead dogs are sold for human consumption —  for years, were cautiously optimistic that the event wouldn't happen this year due to China's recent legislative changes.

After the start on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, China changed the classification of the country's dogs from livestock to companion animal, a move that many animal welfare groups, like Humane Society International, believe signals a move towards banning dog meat consumption in the country.

Additionally, two Chinese cities,  Shenzhen and Zhuhai, did ban the consumption of dog and cat meat around the same time China changed their classification for canines. Reuters also reported that China's government is currently drawing up new laws prohibiting wildlife trade and protecting companion animals.

While the classification change was celebrated as a "game-changer moment for animal welfare in China" by HSI spokesperson Wendy Higgins in The Guardian, and China's interest in dog meat is dwindling, according to Reuters, it was not enough to stop the Yulin Dog Meat Festival from continuing on this year.

Even though the 10-day festival is happening in 2020, animal welfare groups remain optimistic that China's moves to legally protect companion animals could bring an end to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival as early as next year.

"I do hope Yulin will change not only for the sake of the animals but also for the health and safety of its people,"  Peter Li, a China policy specialist with Humane Society International, told Reuters.

He added: "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."

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