The government of Yulin, China, is reportedly set to ban the sale of dog meet at this year's Yulin Festival.
According to National Geographic, the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival -- also known as the Yulin Festival -- was founded in 2010. The event is not endorsed by the government but has rather been organized by private businesses and individuals. In the time since its founding, the festival has come under fire for its treatment of animals -- specifically, the consumption of animals such as dogs and cats.
Consumption of dog meat at the festival is nothing new; the practice has reportedly occurred in China for hundreds of years. Nor is the consumption of dog meat solely confined to the festival. It is estimated that over 10 million dogs are killed to be eaten in China every year.
In recent years, however, the practice has received negative attention. A poll conducted in 2016 found that over half of Chinese residents want the practice banned completely. In addition, almost three-quarters said that they had never (knowingly) eaten dog meat.
This attitude toward the practice of consuming dog meat seems to be extending to the Yulin Festival. During the festival, thousands of dogs and cats are killed for the purpose of being eaten. While many of the animals are strays, many of them are stolen.
On May 17, a press release by Humane Society International and the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project appeared on The Humane Society of the United States' website. It stated that Yulin city officials were set to ban restaurants and street vendors from selling dog meat during the festival. The penalty for violating this ban is arrest and a fine of up to $14,500. It is not yet known whether cat meat is also included in this ban.
The possibility of a ban has been met with positive reactions from animal rights activists.
"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 symbolize China’s crime-fueled dog meat trade," said Peter Li, China Policy specialist at Humane Society International, as part of a statement.
The severity of the penalty associated with the ban has been a particular point of praise.
"Restaurants have been told to remove the dishes, and as Yulin has always been about commerce rather than culture, I think it's unlikely that traders and restaurant owners would go to the trouble of putting themselves out of pocket," said Humane Society International spokesperson Wendy Higgins in an email, reports National Geographic.
However, even with the ban in place, activists still seem to think that there is work to be done.
"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," Li said as part of his statement, according to The Independent.