YULIN, China (AFP) - A Chinese woman has paid over US$1,000 () to save 100 canines from being eaten during a dog meat festival, media said Sunday, as activists have lashed out at the event labelling it cruel.
Animal-loving Yang Xiaoyun paid about 7,000 yuan (S$1,500) to save around 100 dogs in the southern city of Yulin on Saturday, web portal Netease reported.
The city holds an annual festival devoted to the animal's meat on the summer solstice, which has provoked an increasing backlash from animal protection activists.
Reports said that Ms Yang, 65, plans to rehouse the dogs at her home nearly 2,000 kilometres away in Tianjin.
Pictures posted online showed her browsing a market in Yulin where the dogs were kept in cages.
Activists, who say the festival is cruel, have in the past travelled to the city to hold demonstrations, sometimes buying dogs to save them from the cooking pots.
Locals have been quoted as saying that animals are killed in a humane way for the festival, where their meat is then served with lychees.
The majority of "meat dogs" in the country are stolen pets and strays, according to an investigation published this month by Hong Kong-based charity Animals Asia, though eating dog is unusual in most parts of China.
Around 30 million households in the country are estimated to keep dogs as pets, helping to fuel the growing animal rights movement.
This year the festival has been targeted by British Comedian Ricky Gervais, who posted a series of messages on Twitter with the hashtag "StopYuLin2015".
The city's government has tried to distance itself from the event.
"Some residents of Yulin have the habit of coming together to eat lychees and dog meat during the summer solstice," the city's news office wrote on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter equivalent.
"The 'summer solstice lychee and dog meat festival' is a commercial term, the city has never (officially) organised a 'dog meat festival'," it added.
Eating dog is not illegal in China, but the government called on meat vendors to respect food safety laws.
"Yulin is an open, tolerant and civilised city," it said. "We welcome people across the world to pay attention to Yulin."