On Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs announced that it would no longer classify dogs as livestock, meaning the animal can’t be bred for food, milk or fur, according to Reuters.
“As far as dogs are concerned, along with the progress of human civilization and the public concern and love for animal protection, dogs have been ‘specialized’ to become companion animals, and internationally are not considered to be livestock, and they will not be regulated as livestock in China,” read the notice, per the outlet.
Humane Society International estimates that some 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are killed in China every year for meat. A spokesperson for HSI told The Guardian that the policy is a potential “game-changer moment for animal welfare in China.”
“That signals a major shift, recognizing that most people in China don’t eat dogs and cats and want an end to the theft of their companion animals for a meat trade that only a small percentage of the population indulge in,” said the spokesperson.
Earlier this month, Shenzhen officially became the first city in China to ban the consumption of cat and dog meat, with the new law going into effect on May 1.
A recent ban on the consumption of specific wildlife meat in China is a response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic after some of the earliest infections were found in individuals who visited a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, according to The New York Times.
The Shenzhen government decided to extend the ban to cats and dogs as these pets “have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals,” according to BBC News. Additionally, “banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan.”
The proposed change will also fine Shenzhen restaurants found serving dog and cat meat.
Dog and cat meat consumption is not prevalent in many areas of China but is the most common in Shenzhen’s province of Guangdong and the neighboring province of Guangxi, which is home to the controversial Yulin Dog Meat Festival.