By BILLIE THOMSON FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 09:13 BST, 29 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:45 BST, 29 May 2020
China has signalled that it could ban dog meat from the dinner table after approving a proposed directive to classify dogs as companion animals instead of farm animals officially.
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs calls for 'some traditional customs about dogs' to change in the country and stresses that they are 'companion, rescue and service animals'.
The move comes less than a month before the controversial Yulin dog meat festival, which sees thousands of dogs cruelly butchered and eaten on the summer solstice.
The Chinese agricultural ministry no longer considers dogs as livestock or poultry in the latest version of the country's Directory of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry, which was published today.
Some claim that the consumption of dog meat has been observed in Guangxi Province, China, for hundreds of years.
However, the activity was not promoted and encouraged until around 30 years ago - first by the dog meat traders, then by the Yulin government for driving tourism.
The annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival can be traced back to 2009.
The event has drawn waves of criticism from media and animal lovers, with influential figures leading campaigns around the world in a bid to stop it.
The local government has stopped organising the festival under pressure, as it is understood, but vendors continue selling dog meat and residents carry on eating it on the summer solstice.
Only the animals on the list can be bred, raised, traded and transported for commercial purposes in China, according to China's Animal Husbandry Law.
This means the act can potentially prevent around 10million dogs being killed for their meat every year in the country.
A spokesperson from the ministry said that dogs had been domesticated for a long time in the country and they had 'close relationships' with humans.
The spokesperson told reporters: 'With the progress of the times, humans' understanding of civilisation and dining habits have changed constantly. Some traditional customs about dogs will change too.'
The idea of 'traditional customs' has been used as one of the explanations for the existence of the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
The event is one of the most controversial food festivals in the world and sees thousands of dogs cruelly killed, skinned and cooked with blow-torches before being eaten by the locals.
The spokesperson highlighted that it was an international consensus not to classify dogs as livestock.
He said more policies regarding dogs would be rolled out in the future without giving details.
The new directory went into effect on Wednesday.