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06/13/2013

Will online uproar stop looming dog-eating festival in China?

Would you be part of a dog-eating festival?

Okay, that was a loud, disgusted "no."

Something like that seems to be happening in Yulin in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China where the festival is held every year in June; this year, it is supposed to be on June 21.

Protesters have started multiple online campaigns, rapped about it and even petitioned the local mayor. Animal lovers in other countries, like England, have written to the Chinese ambassador. Animal welfare agencies have also joined the chorus of asking for a ban on the “barbaric tradition.”

Some online commentators have described scenes from last year: dogs in cages, their killing, their shaved carcasses hanging on hooks, the haggling by buyers.

Local animal-lovers have said that dogs are often beaten to death.  

In 2011, the Daily Mail reported that over 15,000 dogs were devoured at the week-long festival.

Animal rights activists hope there will be no festival this year. Their hopes seem to be hooked on a ban on a similar festival in Qianxi city in September 2011 because of an uproar on social media.

Jill Robinson, founder of Animals Asia, said she has heard the argument that dog eating represents Chinese culture and tradition. “We have long answered that culture and tradition are no excuse for cruelty and brutality... Traditions should not be above criticism.”

Legend has it that eating of dog meat will dispel ghosts and even disease. It is also believed that dog meat can boost men’s sexual performance. But as Chinese middle-class starts to keep dogs as pets, anti-cruelty campaigns are expanding.

To be fair, the dog eating tradition is not unique to Yulin. Other cities in Zhejiang, Guangxi, and Guangdong province, are also known to be consumers of dog meat.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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