Thousands of dogs could be saved thanks to a new ban on dog meat in Yulin, China.
The city of Yulin, which hosts an annual dog meat festival, is going “to prohibit restaurants, street vendors and market traders from selling dog meat," animal activists in China announced in a press release this week.
The ban will go into effect on June 15, one week before the festival. Violating the ban carries the risk of arrest and fines up 100,000 yuan (US$14,500, HK$113,000), according to Humane Society International (HSI).
The ban was apparently ordered by Mo Gong Ming, Yulin’s new Chinese Communist Party Secretary.
A petition calling for the end of the festival surfaced last year and it collected 11 million signatures.
Campaigners acknowledge that the ban is temporary and that it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the dog meat industry, but it is proof that there could be positive change to come.
“Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade,” says Andrea Gung, executive director of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project. “This ban is consistent with my experience that Yulin and the rest of the country are changing for the better.”
Ten million dogs and about 4 million cats are killed for meat each year in China, most of which are strays and stolen pets, according to activists.
Because of this, there are minimal costs associated with the meat, making it cheaper than pork, chicken and beef.
“Most dog meat currently on the market doesn't have a legal certificate,” Li Weimin, a lawyer based in Beijing with experience dealing with the legality of dog meat, told Time Magazine. “It's hard to tell the enforcement of the new rule in Yulin, but it's progress. Other cities will watch Yulin closely and may follow its example.”
Read More: Today's a day for dogs!
The World Health Organization says that the unregulated trade of dog meat spreads rabies and cholera. China has the second-highest number of reported rabies cases in the world. Rabies has caused an average of 2,000 deaths per year over the last 10 years.
Unfortunately, it remains unclear as to how the ban will be enforced as the dog meat festival brings money to the city.
“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,” HSI spokesperson Wendy Higgins told National Geographic.
Still, the ban feels like a step in the right direction for China’s animal activists.
“The Yulin dog meat festival is not over just yet," says Peter Li, HSI’s China policy specialist. "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.”