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Chinese Dog Meat Festival 2015 - Canceled.

Beijing, June 21 -- In the whirlwind of growth that is modern China, the loss of ancient traditions often provokes dismay and outrage.

But people across the country cheered recently when officials in eastern China said they were doing away with a 600-year-old local custom: the slaughter of thousands of dogs to be eaten at an autumn festival.

The Jinhua Hutou Dog Meat Festival, as it is called, was abruptly canceled last week after local officials were shamed by an online campaign begun by animal rights advocates. Gruesome photographs taken at past festivals that show canine carcasses, some bloody and others cooked, circulated on Chinese microblogs, creating popular pressure against the festival, which was set for October.

Pet ownership has grown rapidly among the Chinese, as has a greater consciousness of animal rights. In the Mao era, the Communist Party condemned pets as a byproduct of bourgeois decadence. But these days, dogs and cats (and all manner of creatures, including rabbits and birds) have become accouterments of Chinese middle-class living. What was once slated for the pantry is now housed in a playpen.

I once had a pet dog, and I'm not a huge fan of dog meat," said a 36-year-old man in Guangdong Province who is credited by a Chinese journalist with helping start the campaign against the festival on Sina Weibo, a popular microblog platform. The blogger declined to give his name and agreed to chat only over the Internet. "The reason why I posted that message online is very simple - that is, I don't want to see dog lovers' feelings get hurt," he said.

Other grass-roots animal-rescue efforts have also gotten results. Last April, a man spotted a truck on a Beijing highway that was packed with more than 500 dogs being shipped to slaughterhouses that supply restaurants in northern China. The man put out a call on the Internet to stop the vehicle, and soon it was blocked by more than 200 people; the crowd rescued the dogs after paying $17,000.

"I believe China is going through a Chinese animal liberation movement, a bottom-up movement, gaining huge momentum in the past year, very much with the help of the Internet and Weibo, together with the younger generation growing up with cats and dogs as family pets," Deborah Cao, a professor at Griffith University in Australia who studies animal rights law, said in an e-mail interview.

The dog meat festival, held in the Wucheng district of Jinhua in Zhejiang Province, is part of an annual three-day temple fair. The dog market has been part of the fair for centuries, according to the district government's Web site. Local folklore says the tradition of feasting on dogs originated when Hu Dahai, a rebel battling Yuan Dynasty rulers in the 14th century, ordered all the dogs in Jinhua to be slaughtered because their barking had warned rebels in the city of his army's approach. His soldiers were treated to dog meat, the story goes and eating dog has been a custom at local temple fairs ever since.

The Zhejiang Jinhua Daily said in an article on Sept. 20 that the market at the annual temple fair was renamed as a "dog meat festival" about a decade ago to increase business. Traditionally, local people brought cooked dog meat to sell, but that changed in recent years because of talk that some of the sellers had poisoned the dogs. Merchants started trucking in live dogs and killing, flaying and cooking them on the spot to prove that the meat was fresh. A local journalist said at least 5,000 dogs are killed.

Dog is popular in winter across much of China because the meat is believed to have warming properties. Practitioners of Chinese traditional medicine say that dog meat imbues the eater with energy and strength.

Microblog posts criticizing this year's Jinhua festival first appeared early this month. The blogger from Guangdong wrote on Sept. 6: "There are thousands of dog eaters gathering there. People slaughter dogs mercilessly, the blood of the dead dogs flows like a river, the horrible screams of dogs pierce the sky."

The outcry quickly gathered momentum. Last week, a few Chinese newspapers wrote editorials. The campaign caught on with celebrities who have millions of microblog followers. The Wucheng district authorities said on Weibo on Sept. 19 that they were canceling the fair. The next morning, they explained the decision was "in full respect of the public's opinion."

Some food lovers are disappointed. One blogger, Gong Wangping, wrote: "I personally think dog meat is like alcohol. They are both components of our ancient Chinese culture."

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian Tribune.

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Publication:Asian Tribune (India)
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Jun 21, 2015
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