This year’s Yulin dog meat festival in China’s Guangxi region has begun, amid uproar on the part of animal rights activists.
About 10,000 dogs are said to be cooked at Yulin Summer Solstice Lychee and Dog Meat Festival on June 21 and June 22 to mark the summer start, state media said.
One retired school teacher from Tianjin hit the headlines when she purchased dozens of dogs to save them.
Residents and vendors in Yulin say the animals are killed in a humane way.
Activists say the killing is cruel and an online campaign to ban the festival has been signed by more than 3.8 million people so far and the campaign has attracted considerable support this year from celebrities both domestic and foreign.
Chinese actor Fan Bingbing and others posted a video online against the festival.
The tradition of eating dog meat dates back four or five hundred years in China, South Korea and other countries, as it is believed to ward off the heat of the summer months, according to state news agency Xinhua.
However, this festival began in recent years, Xinhua said.
Yulin officials have distanced themselves from the gathering.
“Some residents of Yulin have the habit of coming together to eat lychees and dog meat during the summer solstice,” the city’s news office wrote on Weibo.
“The <<summer solstice lychee and dog meat festival>> is a commercial term, the city has never [officially] organized a <<dog meat festival>>,” it added.
As in recent years, some animal lovers resorted to buying some of the dogs in order to rescue them.
Yang Xiaoyun, the retired school teacher, paid about 7,000 yuan ($1,100) to save 100 dogs on June 20.
Eating dog meat is legal in China, but canines are supposed to be raised on farms and certified for human consumption before they are sold.