A traditional dog meat festival with a 600-year history of slaughtering and tasting dogs in Zhejiang Province has been canceled after outrage and protests from tens of thousands of animal-rights activists.
The annual three-day-long festival was planned for October 18 in Hutou Village of Jinhua City, where 5,000 to 10,000 dogs would be butchered on the streets and served to villagers on dining tables.
Participants in past festivals described horrific scenes they called "doomsday for dogs," when dogs were kept in cages with their eyes scratched out and their mouths wrapped up by iron wires, waiting for customers to pick them up and get slaughtered in front of hundreds of other dogs.
"People actually enjoyed killing them in various ways at the festival," wrote Wang Lingyi, an animal-welfare volunteer from Hangzhou. "I've seen the dogs being stabbed, strangled and even beaten into comas and thrown into boiling water. Some dogs woke up in the extremely hot water and they struggled, but the vendors kept pushing them, plucking their fur."
"On those days, the streets were washed by blood while the air was filled by dogs' desperate howls," said an online participant who posted pictures and videos.
A campaign to boycott the coming festival was started by animal-rights activists last week on several online platforms. On Weibo.com, a call for residents to put an end to the slaughterers' festival was forwarded 55,000 times in one day.
"The government called it a traditional festival, but we know they are only attracting vendors into the city to boost economy," Shen Sheng from Jiangsu Province wrote in an open letter to netizens. "Although the laws are still lacking to protect the animals, we will not allow them to carry out such a massacre under our eyes."
Jinhua city officials told Shanghai Daily yesterday that the festival was canceled due to the online outrage. They acknowledged that such a festival is no longer needed after continuing since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
According to an official surnamed Zhang, the decision was made on Monday evening after a heated discussion among government officials and village representatives. But it was no easy task persuading everyone that a 600-year-old tradition should be axed, she said.
"Some villagers argued that they had emotional attachments to the festival, as it had been passed from generation to generation, while some said it should be listed as the city's cultural heritage," said Zhang.
The habit of dog eating in Jinhua can be traced to a Ming Dynasty legend. A general tried to lead his army to strike the city late at night, but failed several times because whenever they got close to the city, dogs would bark to raise the alarm. The general decided to kill all the dogs in the region and the troops finally conquered the city, and they celebrated by eating the dogs they slaughtered.