China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has officially announced dogs are pets and not livestock. It comes weeks before the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in June which sees thousands of dogs and cats cruelly killed and eaten.
The ministry today published its Directory of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry which did not include dogs on its livestock list.
A spokesperson said: “With the progress of the times, humans’ understanding of civilisation and dining habits have changed constantly.
“Some traditional customs about dogs will change too.”
The move could save millions of dogs a year in China.
Animal charity Humane Society International (HSI) welcomed the decision and called for an end to the Yulin Festival.
HSI China Policy Specialist Dr Peter Li said: “Now that the Chinese government has officially recognised dogs as companions and not livestock, we are hopeful that China will take stronger steps to hasten the end of the dog and cat meat trade for which millions of animals continue to suffer every year.
“The announcement presents cities across China with the perfect opportunity to act upon the government’s words by protecting dogs and cats from the meat trade thieves and slaughterhouses.
“In just a few weeks’ time, the dog slaughterhouses of Yulin city will fill up with terrified dogs awaiting brutal slaughter for its infamous festival.
“As the Ministry observed, attitudes and appetites about dogs have changed and so now it is time for Yulin’s dog slaughterhouses to lay down the butcher’s knife, and consign the festival to the history books.”
It comes after China brought in a temporary ban on the wildlife trade in February in response to the coronavirus crisis.
And in April two Chinese cities – Zhuhai and Shenzhen – announced bans on the eating of dogs and cats.
An estimated 30 million dogs a year are killed for Asia’s dog meat trade, including 10 million in China.
The move to ban dog meat comes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 outbreak is widely thought to have started at a wet market, where live and dead animals are sold for eating, in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December.
It is believed to have made the jump from animals – possibly bats – to humans.
Millions of people around the world have been infected with the virus and hundreds of thousands have died.