The Platform

Dogs in cages in a market in Seongnam, South Korea. (Kim Bartlett/Animal People, Inc.)

Shenzhen, China has moved ahead and banned the practice of eating dogs and other domesticated animals.

While the whole world is fighting against a global health pandemic, there is a new ray of hope which has emerged in Asia. For decades, various activists, policymakers, animal lovers, and educational institutions have protested against the consumption of dogs and cats. However, nothing came in their favour. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which likely originated from a wet market in China, things have changed for the benefit of the animals.

Shenzhen has passed a ground-breaking law that has banned the sale and consumption of canine meat and has, therefore, bagged the title of being the first city in China to do so, followed by Zhuhai. The ban was made successful by a long-term animal-rights activist shadowed by Humane Society International.

The dog meat festival, or the Yulin dog meat festival, caters to the sale of thousands of dogs, which are then eaten. The event takes place in Yulin, a city in the Guangxi province of China. The first-ever festival started in 2009, marking the summer solstice. It is assumed that eating dog meat in summer would bring luck and good health to an individual.

Recently, this tradition has attracted a lot of negative coverage. The sole reason is that every year more than thirty million domestic animals are killed. They are often tortured, skinned, and boiled alive in public. These animals are not raised in captive breeding facilities, thereby leading to animal suffering. There is also a risk to human health from rabies and cholera.

Due to all these reasons, a movement arose proposing a ban on canine meat. This movement was given force right after coronavirus was linked to wet markets which are common in China.

The government has also prepared a ‘white list’ that includes the names of animals that can be raised for human consumption like pigs, cattle, and sheep. After detailed discussions within the standing committee of the sixth Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress, the law was finally enforced on 1st May 2020. The government also stated that “dogs are special companion animals.”

For this purpose, the government created a total of 26 new articles in support of the ban. These articles clearly state that the consumption of domesticated animals is prohibited and anyone who violates these laws will be punished. The general penalty decided by the authorities is 150,000 yuan and considering the meat consumption, this can increase twice the cost of the goods (dog meat). These articles also mention what meat can be raised legally and what cannot. They also prohibit any advertisement that promotes canine meat. These provisions were drafted in order to efficiently prevent public health risks, protect people’s lives and health, and promote harmonious coexistence between man and nature.

It is important to note that China still lacks a national law to prohibit animal cruelty. The reason behind this is that the wildlife trade is a massive source of income for many.

Local officials have also distanced themselves from the festival in recent years, which ultimately led to the suppression of the festival and its practice. Most of the dog meat stalls have been permanently closed due to the law. It has become even more challenging to transport dog meat into Shenzhen. This has led to a surge in pet-themed restaurants and pet clinics in the region.

Dogs have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years to be companion animals. They lay their trust in humans. Even though it might be an old tradition, the dog-meat festival must be stopped as it is inherently unethical and cruel. This is a big win as it has led to the victory of many animal rights activists, organizations, and animal lovers. It is also hoped that the rest of the Chinese will do the same.

Yuvraj Trivedi is pursuing a law degree at the Jindal Global Law School.