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Chinese officials have approved a directive to classify dogs and cats as companion animals—not livestock, a move makes the selling of live dogs and dog meat for human consumption illegal.
The Chinese Agriculture Ministry published a new National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources which outlines which animals can be bred, raised, traded and transported for commercial purposes in China. For the first time, dogs are not included. The move will potentially save the lives of tens of thousands of dogs ahead of the notorious Yulin Dog Meat Festival which begins on the Summer Solstice each year.
While the move does not make the consumption of dog meat illegal, the regulation bans selling live dogs and dog meat for food. This means all the restaurants, markets and slaughterhouses across China that sell dogs for consumption are now illegal, sending a message to the industry that dog meat consumption is not supported by the government.
A spokesperson from the Chinese Agriculture Ministry told reporters, “With the progress of the times, humans’ understanding of civilization and dining habits have changed constantly. Some traditional customs about dogs will change too.”
“Tradition” has long been used to excuse and explanation for the annual culling, torture, and slaughter of tens of thousands of dogs in Yulin each summer. It remains to be seen how the new directive will impact the annual festival slated to begin in just a few weeks, on June 21.
Two Chinese cities, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, banned the eating of dogs in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a move that activists and animal lovers hope will extend nationwide.
Humane Society International spokesperson Wendy Higgins said, “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. 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.”
“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,” she continued. “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.”