Despite rising COVID-19 cases, China's notorious dog-meat fair opens
The annual 10-day festival in the southwestern city of Yulin comes despite fears of a second wave of COVID-19. The event usually attracts thousands of visitors, many of whom buy dogs for the pot that are on display in cramped cages.
Amid fears of a second wave of the novel coronavirus in China, the country's annual dog-meat festival has opened. This comes in defiance of a government campaign to improve animal welfare and reduce risks to health highlighted by the outbreak, but activists are hopeful its days are numbered.
The annual 10-day festival in the southwestern city of Yulin usually attracts thousands of visitors, many of whom buy dogs for the pot that are on display in cramped cages, but campaigners said the numbers this year have dwindled.
The government is drawing up new laws to prohibit the wildlife trade and protect pets, and campaigners are hoping that this year will be the last time the festival is held.
"I do hope Yulin will change not only for the sake of the animals but also for the health and safety of its people," said Peter Li, China policy specialist with the Humane Society International, an animal rights group, Reuters reported.
"Allowing mass gatherings to trade in and consume dog meat in crowded markets and restaurants in the name of a festival poses a significant public health risk," he said.
The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a market in the city of Wuhan, has forced China to reassess its relationship with animals, and it has vowed to ban the wildlife trade.
In April, Shenzhen became the first city in China to ban the consumption of dogs, with others expected to follow. The Agriculture Ministry also decided to classify dogs as pets rather than livestock, though it remains unclear how the reclassification will affect Yulin's trade.
Zhang Qianqian, an animal rights activist who was in Yulin on Saturday, said it was only a matter of time before the dog-meat festival was banned. "From what we understand from our conversations with meat sellers, leaders have said the consumption of dog meat won't be allowed in future," she said.
"But banning dog-meat consumption is going to be hard and will take some time."
The Humane Society International estimates that around 10 million dogs a year are still killed in China for meat, including stolen pets.
Chinese researchers, meanwhile, launched phase-2 human test for possible coronavirus vaccine, the Institute of Medical Biology at Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (IMBCAMS) said on Sunday, in efforts to further assess effectiveness and safety.
About a dozen vaccines are in different stages of human tests globally, as the World Health Organization warns the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating and "the world is in a new and dangerous phase".
However, none of the vaccine trials have passed large-scale, late-stage phase 3 clinical trials, a necessary step before getting regulatory approval for sale.
IMBCAMS began on Saturday a phase 2 human test for its experimental shot, which is among six possible vaccines Chinese scientists are testing in humans, following an on-going phase-1 study that has recruited about 200 participants since May, the institute said on Sunday in its social media channel.
The phase-2 trial will determine the shot's dose and continue to evaluate whether the potential vaccine can safely trigger immune responses in healthy people. IMBCAMS said it expects to use a plant dedicated to producing a coronavirus vaccine this year to prepare for China's future vaccine supplies.
As early as by the end of 2020, certain groups of people with special needs can use experimental vaccines under urgent circumstances, Gao Fu, director at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said last month.
The coronavirus, which was first detected in China late in 2019, has infected more than 8.9 million people globally and killed over 460,000 people.