Judicial experts and animal specialists have said an upcoming festival that serves dog meat in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region is illegal.
More than 40 specialists, including law professors, lawyers and animal rights activists, signed an agreement to shut down the festival on Friday, saying such a "tradition" will affect China's image overseas and should be banned.
The annual festival, slated for June 21 in Yulin, celebrates a local tradition of eating dog meat hotpot and lychees and drinking strong liquor on the summer solstice.
But the festival has been shrouded in controversy since it was exposed on the Internet early this month. Some lawyers and animal rights associations even came to the city to investigate.
Li Weimin, a lawyer from Weibo Law Firm, went to the city twice over the past two weeks and said he found that most of the dog meat that is to be served at the festival is from the black market.
"I was told there are four major workshops that produce dog meat in the city. I visited them and found all of them had no business licenses or certificates," Li said, adding he believed the meat made in such places was unhealthy.
The decision to eat the dog meat depends on the individual but trades related to dog meat are illegal according to current Chinese laws, Li said.
An Xiang, an animal rights lawyer in Beijing, said there are no dog farms or legal slaughter houses in China. The dogs for the festival are raised in households, abducted from the streets, or even poisoned, An said.
"We can clearly see rules on raising animals like pigs and producing their meat in the laws, but we haven't seen any on dogs," he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture issued a quarantine regulation on dogs and cats last year, requiring laboratory quarantine for the animals before they are transported.
"But it's rare to see such quarantine places in our country, and similar rules are still not enough," he added.
Each dog can be bought for 9 yuan (S$1.80) and sold for at least 25 yuan, An said, adding that those who steal the dogs via motorbikes and vans make the biggest profits.
"Some of the animal thieves broke Criminal Law using weapons to threaten residents to hand over their dogs," Li added.
The Yulin government said it would show a quarantine certificate, but they haven't shown it yet, Zang Yun, an animal rights expert, said.
Instead, the government has put a logo for the festival on the city's streets, Zang said, adding the authority might realise advertising the festival in such a way is not sensible.
However, Cao Mingde, a law professor from China University of Political Science and Law, said he was pessimistic about restricting residents from eating dog meat and that he doubted an animal protection law could be established within three years.