A yearly festival in China that involves the eating of thousands of dogs has animal activists up in arms.
The Yulin Summer Solstice Dog Meat Festival, to begin on June 21 in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, includes lots of liquor and hot pots filled with dog meat. The festival is well-loved among Yulin residents, according to China Radio International.
Animal activists have called for the event to be cancelled, and one organization, Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, through crowdfunding has surpassed its goal and raised more than $20,000 to be put toward rescue of the dogs and tracking of people involved with illegal canine abduction.
Activist groups claim about 10,000 dogs were consumed during last year's festival and argue that dogs slaughtered for the event are either strays or were abducted from their rightful homes.
While Chinese officials say the dogs eaten during the festival are raised on dog farms specifically for that purpose, an animal rights lawyer in Beijing, An Xiang, said the official story is untrue: There are no such dog farms, and the dogs are indeed strays or abducted pets.
Food safety and preparation fears are also at issue, particularly for the butchers who slaughter the animals. They risk being infected with rabies, as there is no period of quarantine for the dogs before they are shipped to the festival, even though there is just such a quarantine regulation on the books from China's Ministry of Agriculture.
Protests of the event have occurred around the festival for a number of years. This year, Chinese celebrities such as pop performers Chen Kuna and Yang Mi have spoken out against the event.
Local restaurants in Yulin, meanwhile, have been advised that it's best to remove the word "dog" from signs facing streets, so as not to incite protests outside.
Supporters of the festival remain unmoved by the outcry from dog lovers. "It is our tradition and our right to eat dog meat. If we are cruel and brutal, what about those who eat pork, beef and chicken?" Yulin resident Wei Zhengde told CRI.