Two volunteers from animal protection organizations told the Global Times on Wednesday that the Yulin government has prevented dog venders from selling dog meat in streets, restaurants, and markets from June 15, a week before the controversial dog meat festival kicks off on June 21.
The volunteers who declined to be named also said that the local government only gave dog vendors verbal warnings without issuing any written documents.
But a staffer from the Yulin government rebuffed the claim when reached by the Global Times, saying "how can we issue such an order when the dog meat festival has never existed?"
Before the widespread media coverage of the festival — which has been held around the summer solstice in June since the 1990s — began in recent years, only local people bought dog meat around the solstice, whereas now many people from Northeast China or neighboring Guangdong Province also come to the festival to taste the meat, local residents told the Global Times previously.
According to a report by the West China Metropolis Daily, some 10,000 dogs are consumed during every dog meat festival.
Past festivals have witnessed confrontations on the street between restaurant owners, vendors and animal welfare activists, who claim that the festival is barbaric and have called upon the city to stop the "cruel celebration" of dog meat, lychees and strong liquor.
Also, the activists are concerned about the health risks of eating dogs, with suspicion that many of the animals are stolen and reach the table without any inspections or quarantine.
"The reported 'ban' does not mean that local government is against the sale of dog meat. It seems that it is just trying to avoid criticism from the media," Zhang Xiaohai, secretary general at Ta Foundation for Animal Protection, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
In the past years, many animal welfare activists purchased dogs in order to save them from being slaughtered.
"Purchasing dogs isn't the right way — it only benefits dog sellers who raise the prices because of it," Jiang Hong, head of a Xi'an-based animal protection group, told the Global Times, adding that the media hype has also inflamed tensions.
Although it has received criticism over the festival, the Yulin government has, in fact, stayed out of the festival. Hua Chunying, a spokesperson from the foreign ministry, said in 2016 that "the local government of Yulin has never supported, organized or hosted any so-called dog meat festival."
Yulin locals told the Xinhua News Agency that they believe the dog meat is no different from pork and they should be free to enjoy their tradition without finger-pointing.
This story by Zhao Yusha was first published in the Global Times.