The annual dog meat festival in Yulin, China continues this year despite the country undergoing several drastic policy changes concerning the consumption of unconventional meat due to the coronavirus
According to The New York Times, the dog meat festival kicked off on Sunday, 21 June, in Yulin, but it attracted a much smaller crowd in celebrating the tradition this year in comparison to the past.
Activists argued that more and more young and middle-class Chinese have gotten less defensive against the custom over the years.
Despite that, recent videos verified by AFP still witnessed dogs being locked up in small cages and butchers piling up dog carcasses at several large stores this year.
The festival was introduced by the southern China city in 2009, but the practice dates back as far as 400 years ago. Locals believe that eating dog meat during the summer months will bring good health.
Activists contributed the downward trend to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which studies have claimed started from a wet food market, and the policies introduced at the city and national levels
In April, Shenzhen and Zhuhai became the first two cities in China to ban the consumption and trading of dog meat entirely, reported The Independent UK.
In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic in the country, the government was forced to fast-track laws to ban wildlife meat in February. But the law does not apply to dogs and cats.
And while the country's Ministry of Agriculture recently reclassified dogs as companions, not livestock, the policy change does not prohibit the public from eating them.
A recent survey conducted by local animal associations also found that the country recorded 55 million pets last year, an increase of 8% from the year before. All across the country, pet stores are starting to open up beside restaurants serving steak as well.
However, even with the new policies, the pandemic, and the slow change of public attitude, it is not enough to stop the killing of dogs as meat in China
The New York Times cited China's ability to defeat COVID-19 to the rise of nationalism, which has fuelled defenders of the practice.
Some quarters said that banning the festival is a rejection of a long-standing Chinese tradition, while others said that the public has been influenced by the West, contending that eating dog meat is no different than eating turkey in the US.
It was reported that it is increasingly more difficult for dog meat vendors to operate as a recent government crackdown has restricted traders from transporting dogs outside of a province.
While they are still allowed to operate, many have moved to the outskirts of the city.
AFP quoted a restaurant worker in Yulin as saying that the number of customers has dramatically decreased this year and the festival has been renamed into the 'Yulin Summer Solstice Festival'.