China is no longer classifying dogs as livestock, neither is it allowing dogs to be bred, raised, traded or transported for commercial purposes.
The new policy was marked in an update to the country’s Directory of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry, less than a month before the Yulin Dog Meat Festival was scheduled to take place.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is responsible for the slaughter of around 10,000 dogs yearly. It began in 2010 as a way to bolster dog meat sales, but remains a controversial festival both inside and outside of China. Around 4 million cats and 10 million dogs are slaughtered for meat every year in China, Humane Society International reports. Animal advocates expect to see that number fall as the new policies are enforced around the country.
“With the progress of the times, people’s civilization ideas and eating habits are constantly changing, and some traditional customs about dogs will also change,” said a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs.
The Ministry clarified its intent in a public notice.
“As far as dogs are concerned, along with the progress of human civilization and the public concern and love for animal protection, dogs have been ‘specialized’ to become companion animals, and internationally are not considered to be livestock, and they will not be regulated as livestock in China,” the notice states.
According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs, “With the progress of the times, people’s civilization ideas and eating habits are constantly changing, and some traditional customs about dogs will also change.”
Shenzhen and Zhuhai were the first two cities in China to ban the consumption of dog and cat meat, preceding a nationwide ban on eating certain types of wildlife meat in China when coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began to spread. Other communities are expected to follow suit, further driving down the number of dogs stolen or bred to be killed each year.
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Animal rights activists in China are appealing to a sense of humanity in the campaign to end the dog meat trade, and economic impact is on their side, as well.
“The impact of shutting down the dog meat trade would not be remotely significant for the Chinese economy,” Dr. Peter Li, associate professor of East Asian politics and China policy specialist with HSI, told the New York Times.
Policy change aside, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival is still scheduled from June 21 through June 30, 2020. It’s unclear how the new rule will be enforced at the festival.
‘The Yulin festival is a bloody spectacle that does not reflect the mood or eating habits of the Chinese people, and if it is allowed to go ahead, it will appear to be in public defiance of the Ministry of Agriculture’s words,” HSI spokesperson Wendy Higgins told the Daily Mail.
“In just a few weeks, the dog slaughterhouses of the city of Yulin will be full with terrified dogs awaiting bludgeoning and butchery for its infamous dog meat festival,” Higgins told The Daily Mail. “Experience tells us that many of those dogs will be precisely the beloved companions and helpers and service dogs the national government talked about in its statement as being not for food.”
Higgins, joined by other groups and individuals, is calling for an end to the festival this year, and believes the policy change could help make that happen.
“This now presents the perfect opportunity for cities across China to act upon the government’s words by protecting dogs and cats from the meat trade thieves and slaughterhouses,” she said.
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