Nearly 1,000 dogs were spared from slaughter in southwest China as animal-rights activists intercepted trucks loaded with "man's best friend" and negotiated their purchase, local officials said Monday.
An Internet user known as "Mosquito" initiated the rescue on Friday via the Twitter-like microblogging site Weibo after learning the dogs would be transported out of the city of Zigong in Sichuan province and taken to slaughterhouses in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to be processed for meat.
On Saturday about 200 volunteers blocked the three trucks packed with hundreds of whimpering dogs, and two local animal welfare groups paid the trader 80,000 yuan (12,500 U.S. dollars) for the dogs.
The two groups, Sichuan Qiming Animal Adoption Center and Chengdu Home of Love, will take care of the dogs.
The trader, Tang Daguo, said he would no longer engage in the transport of dogs, although local authorities said he had all the proper permits and did not break any laws.
Tang, who has been in the business for seven years, said he had never come across such a blockade before.
But it's not the first time for animal-rights groups to block trucks transporting dogs for slaughter, as China has seen a rise in animal-rights activism that seeks to suppress the use of dogs as meat.
In April, about 200 people blocked a truck carrying dogs on a Beijing highway to negotiate their release after a microblog post attracted significant attention.
"Though there are controversies, I'm happy to see more and more people joining us to end animal suffering and promote animal welfare," said Zhou Zunguo, an executive of the China branch of Compassion in World Farming, a U.K.-based group that campaigns for animal welfare.
Zhou, one of the key activists in the dog rescue operation in April, said he hopes China's booming middle class, whose living standards have been dramatically raised with the country's rising prosperity, should take the lead in promoting animal welfare.
"Animals have feelings," Zhou said. "Only when humans treat animals well can we live in true harmony."