Beijing : After several years of protests, authorities have finally banned the sale of dog meat in the Yulin festival, which is celebrated on June 21 every year in the city.
The Yulin government will prohibit the sale of dog meat in restaurants, markets and other commercial centres from June 15, Efe reported.
Activists from China's Duo Duo Project and Humane Society International of the United Kingdom were part of the protests and campaign against the sale of dog meat in the Yulin festival.
"The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is not over just yet, but if this news is true as we hope, it is a really big nail in the coffin for a gruesome event that has come to symbolise China's crime-fuelled dog meat trade," said Peter Li, HSI expert in China, while mentioning that several dogs are often stolen or kidnapped for the festival.
The ban, spearheaded by Yulin's new Communist Party Secretary, Mo Gongming, was, hailed as a decisive victory by the activists, although they feared it to be temporary.
"Even if this is a temporary ban, we hope this will have a domino effect, leading to the collapse of the dog meat trade," said Andrea Gung, Project Director Duo Duo.
Anyone violating the ban, which will come into effect less than a week before the start of the 2017 festival, will be fined up to $14,500 or detained by the police.
A majority of China's population does not eat dog meat, but the minority that does, such as in southern parts of the country or next to its border with the Korean peninsula, has a market where 10-20 million dogs are sacrificed annually.
The Yulin festival that began in 2010 and is celebrated on the occasion of the summer solstice, has now become a symbol of the infamous practice; about 15,000 dogs were killed in the first editions of the festival.
The figure has come down to 3,000 over the last few years owing to sustained campaigns by animal groups, which have blocked access to Yulin to stop the movement of trucks carrying dog and cat meat to the festival.
The HSI and Duo Duo Project also said in the statement that the festival falsely defended it as a tradition, since it was invented in 2010 by dog meat sellers to prevent declining sales.
The World Health Organisation considers the dog-meat trade unhealthy and dangerous, as it could spread diseases such as rabies and cholera.
Several celebrities, including British actor-comedian Ricky Gervais and late American actress Carrie Fisher, were part of the campaign against the Yulin festival and in 2016 over 11 million people signed a petition against it.