Eating dog meat and drinking lychee liquor to celebrate the arrival of summer on the summer solstice has been a longtime tradition in Yulin, a city in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China.
Started in the 1990s, the tradition has now evolved into an annual dog meat festival, one of the largest such festivals in China.
According to the China Daily, upon the arrival of another summer solstice on Monday, over 10,000 dogs will be killed to supply the festival, just as it has happened in the past.
The tradition has not only thrived in Yulin, but also in other southern cities such as Guangzhou and Huajiang.
History of eating dog meat
In northern China, where there is a long history of consuming dog meat to ward off the coldness in the winter and bring in good luck, people boast of the refined and sophisticated tastes of their dog-meat cuisine.
However, this tradition is slowly fading out.
In 2011, another popular festival, Jinhua Hutou Dog Meat Festival in Zhejiang, was banned by the local government.
Last year, the local Yulin government reportedly denied the existence of the dog meat festival and its involvement in organizing the event. Meanwhile, dog meat sales in Yulin reportedly decreased by about 60 percent last year from the previous year.
Dog meat restaurants in some cities are closing down as well. Even one of the most popular restaurants in Guangzhou, widely known for its dog meat cuisine, has been turned into a clothing store.
In recent years, Chinese and international animal rights activists have been calling for eliminating dog meat consumption.
Animal rights organizations such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International and Duo Duo Project all made public announcements and launched online petitions to end the Yulin dog meat festival.
Social media campaigns
Nearly 3 million supporters have signed an online petition on popular social campaign website Change.org.
On social media, the hashtag “#StopYulin2015” is trending on Twitter while the “Stop Yulin Dog & Cat Meat Festival 2015” Facebook page has gained nearly 70,000 likes.
Chinese celebrities including actresses Sun Li and Yang Mi also joined in the campaign on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, by posting pictures of their puppies and sharing anti-Yulin festival posters.
The increasing population of Chinese dog lovers and pet owners formed another strong voice against the dog meat consumption culture.
According to Bloomberg, since the restrictions on keeping pets were lifted in the 1990s, China is now home to 27 million pet dogs and the third-largest pet market in the world, following only the U.S. and Brazil.
Pian Shan Kong, a Chinese artist and blogger, told France 24 that he was a victim of dog trafficking himself.
“My dog was poisoned and kidnapped in the street a few years ago,” he said. “A lot of people accuse us activists of disrespecting their cultural traditions, but that’s not the case at all,” he added. “The problem is that the dogs are treated cruelly.”
Some preserve tradition
Despite the ongoing outcry to stop the tradition of eating dog meat, traces of support can still be found to preserve the tradition.
“You can still look for places to eat dog meat when you feel like to,” a dog meat lover whose last name is Wei told VOA. “I’d just look for small food stands.”
Du Yufeng, founder of the Guangyuan Center for Protection of Animals in Sichuan Province, explained eating dog meat has been part of life for many ethnic minorities in China.
“Guangxi province is mainly populated by Zhuang ethnic minorities; for them, eating dogs is a tradition,” he said.
“It’s also a poor region and dog meat is cheap compared to pork or beef,” he said.
Silver Yang and Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.