Video footage of this year’s Yulin dog meat festival verified by AFP shows dozens of animals crammed in small, dirty cages and butchers at several large stalls piled high with dog carcasses.
But restaurant workers involved in the week-long event, which they say started Sunday and has been renamed the “Yulin Summer Solstice Festival”, told AFP that attendance was down.
“The number of arriving customers has dropped a lot,” said a man surnamed Chen.
He said the dog meat restaurant where he works would open as normal this festival without any special events or pricing like in past years.
Some posts on the Chinese social network Weibo called for the festival to be cancelled entirely after COVID-19 and a recent fresh outbreak of the disease in Beijing linked to a wholesale food market.
“Is it not enough that (the festival) is infamous throughout the world? Where will food safety become a reality… Stop this damn festival at once,” one user wrote.
Experts pointed to a shift in public attitudes towards dog meat consumption and food safety in the wake of the virus.
A proposal for China’s first nationwide law banning animal cruelty received wide public support during the annual parliamentary session in May, while a viral video of a Chinese university student torturing a cat sparked mass public outcry in April.