A controversial "dog meat festival" will go ahead next Friday in Yulin, Guangxi, despite an online outcry by animal rights activists.
The annual festival involving savouring the delights of dog meat hotpot, lychees and strong liquor on the Summer Solstice is a cherished tradition among Yulin locals. Thousands of diners are expected to crowd food streets and enjoy the feast. Animal protection activists estimate more than 10,000 dogs are killed during the festival.
"Those who don't have time to go to the food streets usually cook dog meat and eat lychees at home," a resident said.
Activists fear demand encourages the abduction of strays or pets. But officials say the consumed canines are raised by local dog farms.
Efforts to block the festival - including open letters to the Yulin government, recruitment of celebrities to condemn the practice and even petitioning to the US White House - have angered some Yulin locals.
A Yulin resident, who identified herself as Annie, said she would defend the festival as it was part of Yulin's tradition.
"It's unfair to call Yulin people brutal only because we have this tradition to eat dog meat. People who call us uncivilised and cruel should stop eating meat first," said Annie.
Yulin officials did not answer calls for comment yesterday.
Du Yufeng, who works for a Sichuan-based animal protection organisation, said she saw slaughtered dogs on sale in several wet markets in Yulin yesterday. "The massive dog killing is going to start very soon, as it usually take several days for the dog meat dealers to prepare for the one-day festival," she said.
In an earlier response to her organisation's open letter to cancel the festival, Yulin authorities promised they would tighten sanitation inspections and crack down on dog slaughtering in public during this year's festival.
There are no animal welfare laws on the mainland but selling dog meat requires official sanitation certificates.
Du, however, questioned the effectiveness of such inspections, suspecting that officials informed market managers in advance of their rounds.
Officials in Zhejiang province cancelled a similar dog meat festival in 2011 following an online campaign.