The Yulin Dog Meat Festival needs no introduction
Labelled as "festival of cruelty" by the Humane Society International, the annual celebration held in Yulin during the summer solstice in June sees an estimated 10,000 dogs and cats being tortured, cooked alive and eaten by people of Guangxi.
While eating dogs is legal in China, the infamous dog meat festival has been drawing widespread criticism from all over the world.
While every year it is reported that the Chinese government has "banned" dog meat from the Yulin festival, pictures from the successive festivals have proven it to be untrue
The picture below from 2016 shows men enjoying a dog meat dish during Yulin festival.
This year, however, animal rights activist groups are claiming that the Yulin government has banned vendors and restaurants from selling dog meat in the days running up to this year's Yulin Dog Meat Festival and also during it
These animal rights activist groups are California-based animal campaigners Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project and Humane Society International.
According to the press released by these two groups, "they have received reports from Chinese activist and confirmed by three traders at Yulin's biggest dog meat market Dongkou" about the ban on dog meat at the event."
"The ban will come into effect on 15th June one week prior to the festival that begins on the summer solstice of 21st June. It will be strictly enforced with fines of up to 100,000 yuan (RM62,776) and risk of arrest for violations," they said.
So it's true then? Selling of dog meat has been banned from this year's Yulin festival? This is a good news, right?
Well, not exactly.
You see, this so-called ban is temporary - meaning most dogs could be killed ahead of the event - and on top of which, it is NOT being announced officially.
The animal rights group, however, is considering it an "extraordinarily hopeful sign that Yulin will one day soon consign dog eating to the history books."
Can you explain what's going on?
Following the press release by the Humane Society International and the Duo Duo Project, when international media houses including BBC and The New York Times tried to reach out to Yulin officials to confirm the ban on dog meat from this year's festival, they categorically refused to confirm any such ban at all.
The BBC even reported that "some vendors" told the outlet they hadn't heard of a ban.
However, according to HuffPost, Humane Society International is confident in its sources and that it isn’t surprised Yulin officials won’t confirm the ban to the media.
"It's likely not in [the local government's] interests to appear to be responding to national or global pressure," HSI international media director Wendy Higgins told HuffPost.
"The contacts in China of HSI and Duo Duo Project have spoken directly with a number of traders, all of who confirm the ban, and that traders were told to attend a meeting at which the ban was explained," the HSI international media director added.
Essentially, according to the Humane Society International, what the Yulin officials are trying to do is not a ban announcement, but to "prevent activists and journalists from taking gruesome-looking photos of canine carcases".
And by not formally announcing the ban, the HSI international media director claims
the local government there is playing a "logical strategic move."
"If the ban is a failure, the officials can say ‘what ban?’ because they never confirmed it, and if it is a success, they can say ‘see what we have done’ and hopefully build on it next year until the problem goes away," HuffPost reported her as saying.
All bark, no bite
Additionally, reports of the ban seem to have come as a surprise to people in Yulin.
The BBC, which spoke local vendors selling dog meat there, is reporting that the vendors were confident they could continue to sell dog meat at the festival.
"Banning the sales of dog meat? I've not heard of it. Whoever wants to eat will continue to eat. Why is dog meat any different from other meat anyway?," the BBC quoted the owner of a popular dog meat restaurant in Yulin.
And the same was corroborated by restaurant owners contacted by AFP on Friday, who said they had not been told about the temporary veto.
"Our restaurant is open as usual. We haven't heard of a dog meat ban," an employee of the Longmen restaurant was quoted as saying by AFP.
Another restaurant staff said: "We don't know about the ban. We are open every day."
On the other hand, this so-called "ban" lasts only a week
And The New York Times is reporting that while this covers the days before the festival and its opening — when a majority of the dogs are typically killed and consumed, most of the dog meat vendors will resume selling once the ban is lifted.
So while the animal rights groups are celebrating it as a positive step for animal welfare in China, you as a reader should take the news of the ban with some scepticism.
What's your take of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival? After all, it is legal to eat dog meat in China. Comment to let us know.