BEIJING: Lian Lian, a three-year-old greyhound, was barely alive when he was found by animal welfare activists in July 2015.
Rescued from a truck just outside Qinhuangdao in Northern China, he is among almost 10 to 20 million dogs killed for human consumption across China each year.
“During the treatment process, he almost didn't make it,” said Zhou Yan, Lian Lian’s owner. “There was pink froth coming out of his nose because of a lung infection and he had many external injuries.”
Today, Lian Lian has recovered, though he still remains wary of vehicles. Though he narrowly escaped being served at the dinner table, others are not so lucky - with tens of thousands of dogs having been killed for their meat during the event over the past few years. Many were stolen pets still wearing their collars.
China’s most prominent example of its dog meat trade is the Yulin Lychee and Dog Meat Festival which takes place every year in June during the summer solstice. It was first launched in 2010.
A customer (R) selects a puppy in a market in Yulin, south China's Guangxi region.
“In 2014, the Yulin authorities issued an internal directive to all the government officials to stay away from the dog meat restaurants because of domestic condemnation and international protests,” said Dr Peter Li, Humane Society International's China specialist.
“We've seen a drastic reduction in the number of dogs slaughtered and the number of dogs consumed.”
However, animal welfare groups still hope the government will do more to end the trade, with the Capital Animal Welfare Association lobbying the China Food and Drug Administration to crack down on the industry.
“The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to tell the consumer that the source of the meat is unclear or that it’s unhygienic. That’s the first thing,” said Qin Xiaona, founder and director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association.
“The second is that it can enforce laws such as asking the traders where the meat came from and whether it’s gone through quarantine. If not, it has the authority to block the meat from sale.”
There is growing public support for a crackdown on the industry. This year, more than 8.6 million Chinese citizens voted online in support of a legislative proposal to ban the dog and cat meat trade, the highest number of votes for any proposal open to the public.
Yet despite the numbers, it appears the festival is likely to continue this year.