Restaurants in Yulin, Guangxi, at the centre of the dog meat controversy have hit back at animal rights activists by circulating photos of foreign reporters eating dog.
A man and a woman from New York-based current affairs website Vice were caught on camera enjoying a dog meat banquet after heading to the city to cover the Yulin Dog Meast Festival on Saturday.
Photos showing the pair eating the meat and interviewing locals have been widely shared on Weibo – particuatly by local businesses seeking to advertise the popularity of the festival.
“They said Yulin’s dog meat and lycees are very tasty and they would come again next year,” the post said.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival, held for decades over the summer solstice, has been widely criticised online by animal rights groups and celebrities. Protests have sparked off a worldwide campaign to halt the “cruel” practice of slaughtering dogs for their meat. Protests have continued even after the festival ended.
In a story published on Vice’s Chinese website vice.cn on Monday, one of the writers reported they participated in a “100-person dog meat banquet”, where locals introduced them to the culture of dog eating, before interviewing a woman who adopted over 3,000 dogs to save them, at the cost of selling her home. 
The next day a dog lover stopped them in the street and asked why they had eaten the meat. The reporters wrote: “We didn’t know how to answer and ended up lying that we just filmed [the banquet] but did not eat".
Calls to Vice’s Beijing office remained unanswered, and it did not respond to emails either.
Li Zhe, a volunteer with the Beijing Loving Animals Foundation, said: “What the two people did has been exploited by locals and therefore has exerted a very bad influence.
“They have obviously been considered as reporters from mainstream Western media.”
She added the fact that they ate dog meat has damaged efforts to urge the public not to eat man’s best friend.
Li added the pair were university students who were freelancing for the website.
Animal rights activists were split over how to deal with the animals saved during the festival, the Beijing News reported.
Some bought the dogs and took them away by truck, without going through quarantine procedures, the report said.
One activist called Du Yufeng from Sichuan’s Guangyuan city was quoted as saying that she would not be fined for failing to do so because she had good connections with the local government.
“We animal protectionists are experienced. I can tell whether a dog has rabies or not by a single glance,” she said, “I guarantee the 400 dogs are all safe.”
But Zhang Yuanyuan, a campaigner from ACTAsia, an animal rights group, was quoted as saying: “[By doing this] we’re the same as dog dealers.”