BEIJING: Animal rights groups say dog meat has been banned at a controversial festival in China, but local restaurants claim they haven't heard anything about the purported prohibition.
The celebration in the southwestern town of Yulin has long drawn international criticism but this year authorities have prohibited sales of butchered canines, the Humane Society International (HSI) said.
Officials also plan to fine vendors up to 100,000 yuan ($14,500) for selling dog meat during the summer solstice event, HSI China policy expert Peter Li said in a statement Thursday.
Thousands of dogs are traditionally killed during the festival in conditions activists describe as brutal, with dogs beaten and boiled alive in the belief that the more terrified they are, the tastier the meat.
But restaurant owners contacted by AFP on Friday said they had not been told about the temporary veto.
"Our restaurant is open as usual. We haven't heard of a dog meat ban," an employee of the Longmen restaurant said.
An employee at Feilao restaurant said: "We don't know about the ban. We are open every day."
Even a city government official claimed to be unaware of the prohibition.
But HSI said it had confirmed the ban with sellers at the city's main dog meat market.
A Chinese animal rights activist, who asked not to be named, said she had also been told that sales of canine flesh would be outlawed during the event.
Dog meat sellers have said previously that outcry over the festival had actually attracted greater attention to the celebration and encouraged more people to eat canines.
Dogs are eaten year round in Yulin, as in many parts of southern China.