Medical staff have been ordered not to eat dog meat amid a growing backlash against an upcoming "dog meat festival" in the southwest mainland.
Doctors and nurses were told by health authorities not to eat dog meat in Yulin city in Guangxi province.
Traditionally, locals in Yulin celebrate the summer solstice by savouring dog meat, lychees and strong liquor. More than 10,000 dogs are slaughtered during the festival as tourists flood the streets to enjoy the controversial feast.
But protests from dog lovers and animal rights groups at home and abroad have forced the event to adopt a lower profile this year. The municipal government published a statement last Friday saying the festival was not a cultural tradition but an annual event held by restaurants and the public.
Staff from three local hospitals confirmed to the Southern Metropolis Daily yesterday employees had been told to refrain from eating dog meat in public. A notice of the ban was first posted on Weibo on May 29.
"According to the directive issued by higher authorities, hospital staff are prohibited from having dog meat at food stalls, restaurants or hotels in Yudong and Fumian districts," the notice read.
Meanwhile, local restaurants serving dog meat have been ordered to cover the word "dog" on their signs, the paper reported on Wednesday.
"Food safety authorities told us to change our signboards due to the objection of certain dog lovers," staff members of a popular dog meat restaurant told the paper.
Last year, China's animal welfare groups and dog lovers bombarded the city with petitions demanding an end to the event.
Celebrities also joined the protest on Weibo this year. Taiwanese actress Barbie Hsu Hsi-yuan and mainland actresses Betty Sun Li and Vicki Zhao Wei all openly condemned the slaughter of dogs in online posts.
But their appeal, reposted hundreds of times within hours, angered some microbloggers who accused the celebrities of double standards.
"Why don't you ask your husband to stop selling shark fin before giving us a lecture on dog welfare," one microblogger wrote in his comments to the post of Barbie Hsu, who married mainland restaurant tycoon Wang Xiaofei in 2011.