July 2, 2013
BEIJING (AFP) – A festival dedicated to dog meat in southern China has been targeted by protesting animal lovers, who have won a minor concession from local officials, said an activist.
The annual festival, which took place two weeks ago in Guangxi province, saw dogs packed into cages before being killed, skinned and cooked – but was met with increasing opposition from activists, highlighting China’s growing animal rights movement.
Members of the activist group the Boai Small Animal Protection Centre protested in Yulin, the city which holds the festival, since early last month, calling on the local government to cancel it, group founder Du Yufeng said.
Photographs from past festivals showing dogs packed into cages and locals feasting on their meat from steaming pots have circulated on China’s popular social networking websites, leading thousands to condemn the festival as cruel.
“This year the government has said they feel under pressure from online activism…so they have a special team to monitor the festival,” Du said.
“I think the team will reduce the cruelty somewhat, but mostly on the surface,” she said, adding: “We have seen animals beaten just before being cooked…the more we inspect, the more cruelty we discover.”
Government officials previously said that they could not close the festival as it was organised by locals, and not the government, Du said.
The event is reported to have started several decades ago to mark the summer solstice, and it usually attracts 10,000 people, according to the South China Morning Post.
Trucks arriving at the city packed with live dogs had taken measures to avoid being intercepted by activists, Du said.
“We can’t stop the trucks because they come at three or four in the morning, so we don’t know about them,” she said.
But the activists had rescued dozens of the dogs and hoped to find new homes for them, she said. Pictures posted on the group’s account on Sina Weibo – a Chinese social networking service similar to Twitter – showed around a dozen activists on a street in Yulin holding posters showing caged dogs and calling for the festival to be cancelled.
Dog meat is not widely eaten in China, but can be found at restaurants across the country, where it is sometimes considered a speciality.