Two diners drink over a hot pot of dog meat in Yulin in southwestern China. Photo: Weibo

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China’s controversial dog meat festival started on Thursday in Yulin in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, but according to the local media, there have been fewer animal welfare protests this year.

It has been reported that many restaurant owners in Yulin have opted to order raw meat directly from local abattoirs this year, rather than slaughtering the dogs themselves. This is a departure from the previous tradition of piling up crates of canines and killing them at the entrances to the restaurants as proof that their meat was fresh and not adulterated.

“This can be a sign of compromise,” a volunteer with an animal rights advocacy group told Global Times.

Meanwhile, posters that read “boycott dog meat festival, save man’s best friend” were plastered around the city amid a heightened police presence in streets with popular restaurants.

Animal welfare activists stage a protest in Yulin. Some had been threatened and assaulted in previous years. Photo: Weibo

The festival was traditionally held on the Summer Solstice, which fell on Thursday this year.

According to local customs and traditional Chinese medicine theory, dog meat is nutritious and helps fend off tropical diseases.

In the heyday of the week-long Yulin dog meat carnival, a dog dealer could rake in up to 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million), according to a report on Chinese news portal Sina.

The festival also shored up profits for local restaurants, reportedly contributing one third of their annual income as locals and tourists ate dog meat specialties.

The Hong Kong-based Apple Daily also reported that this year the local government had mandated eateries in the city replace the words “dog meat” with euphemisms like “high-protein, nutritious meat” or “local specialty meat” on their signboards and menus. Still, restaurants there have been chock-a-block with locals and tourists, in particular those from neighboring Guangdong province.

Some even took along their pet dogs while they ate their meals.

Locals also told reporters that the irony was that the barrage of negative reports and demonstrations by animal welfare activists had made the dog meat festival even more well-known across the nation and overseas and many hotels in the city were fully booked.

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