Beijing, June 20 (IANS) Restaurants in China’s Guangxi Zhuang region’s Yulin city have covered the Chinese character “dog” on their signboards in order to “avoid trouble” ahead of the start of a controversial dog meat festival on Tuesday.
Fearing protests from animal rights activists that have inundated past festivals, many restaurants and vendors in the city have covered their signboards. Some restaurants even changed their names entirely.
A dog meat seller named Zhou who works at the city’s Dongkou market told the Global Times daily on Sunday that she just wanted to “avoid trouble”.
Another dog meat seller, Li who works near Liangbin road said that the government has required vendors to cover their signboards.
“Recently, authorities have frequently asked to check the licenses of these restaurants and vendors, including their food sanitation permits and business licenses,” Li said.
On Jiangbin road, dubbed “dog street” for the cluster of dog meat restaurants there, a line has formed as people wait for these restaurants to start hanging their dog meat and prepare for dinner at 6 p.m.
Before mass media coverage of the festival – held since the 1990s – began in recent years, only local people bought dog meat, whereas now many people from Northeast China or neighbouring Guangdong province also come here to taste the meat, a local resident Zhang said.
Zhou, the dog meat seller, said that eating dog meat is a long-standing tradition that people from outside the area may not understand.
Past festivals have witnessed confrontations on the street between restaurant owners, vendors and animal welfare protesters, who claim the festival is barbaric and who have called upon the city to stop the “cruel celebration”.
“The government is capable of telling the public that this kind of tradition is improper and should be banned,” Jiang Hong, head of a Xi’an-based animal protection group, said.
“The market stimulated the production chain. In order to get dogs, many people resorted to stealing and poisoning them, which may be dangerous, since some people were likely to have been poisoned by eating poisoned dogs,” Jiang added.
A supervisor of the Dongkou market said all the dog meat sold in the market had been approved by the local food safety watchdog, adding that no law or regulation prohibits residents from buying or selling dog meat.
According to a report by West China Metropolis Daily, some 10,000 dogs are consumed during every dog meat festival.