Dog meat fest opens amid howls of protest

China's annual dog meat festival this year in Yulin faces more scrutiny than ever after animal rights groups send Beijing a petition with 11 million signatures protesting the practice as barbaric and cruel.

YULIN • China's southern city of Yulin has begun its annual dog meat festival despite opposition from animal rights activists, as residents complained of new government measures to keep the festival low-key.

More than 10,000 dogs are killed at the event 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.

Activists this month handed the Beijing authorities a petition with 11 million signatures protesting against the festival.

Though there was only a small number of dogs on sale in the city's central market, several activists bought the animals which would otherwise end up on the grill.

"Dogs are man's best, the most loyal friend. How could we eat our friends? You tell me," said activist Yang Yuhua, who flew in from Chongqing and paid more than 1,000 yuan (S$204) to buy two caged dogs at the festival, which began yesterday.

Despite the open sales, the Chinese term for "dog meat" could not be found at any restaurants specialising in dog dishes.

"Why won't they (let us openly celebrate the festival)? The city government came out and told (the vendors) not to let restaurant owners sell (dog meat). The city government is always (handling this issue) this way," said Ms Min, a Yulin resident.

Dog ownership was once looked down upon as a decadent bourgeois habit, but China's growing middle class has started to fight what it sees as barbarous abuse.

Dog is a traditional food mostly in southern China, where people believe eating the meat is good for the body during the hot summers.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Dog meat fest opens amid howls of protest'. Print Edition | Subscribe