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A pet dog sits in the basket on a bicycle in front of dogs killed and to be eaten at a free market in Yulin city, south Chinas Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 21 June 2012. [Photo: Imagine China]
An animal rights group has failed to stop a festival in southern China dedicated to dog meat, which has garnered much media attention and divided China's internet community in recent days.
The annual festival, scheduled to take place on Friday in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, will feature dogs being packed into cages before being killed, skinned and cooked.
Members of the Boai Small Animal Protection Centre have been protesting in Yulin, the city where the festival will be held, since early this month, calling on the local government to cancel it, group founder Du Yufeng said.
Photographs from previous festivals showing dogs being packed into cages and locals feasting on their meat from steaming pots have circulated on China's popular social networking websites, leading thousands to condemn the festival as cruel.
Government officials previously said that they could not prevent the festival from taking place as it was organized by locals, and not the government, Du said.
The event is reported to have started several decades ago to mark the summer solstice. It is expected to attract 10,000 attendees according to the South China Morning Post.
Chinese netizens have so far expressed mixed opinions towards this festival.
One internet user named joanmiyaoka said that a nation's moral standard is tested by its attitude towards animals. Another opponent of the festival named Stephen said that if a tradition is cruel and horrible, there is no need to preserve it. He also called on Chinese people to treat domestic animals in the same way they treated pandas.
However, the netizen fumingchu pointed out although he doesn't eat dog meat himself, he is not opposed to Yulin locals doing so as a traditional practice. A culture that cherishes animals should not necessarily discredit another that advocates traditional foods. His opinion is supported by another web user named Jaminghard, who said the festival is fine as long as the dogs are not endangered animals and they are not tortured.
Animal lovers rescued around 500 dogs in 2011 after a truck carrying them was forced to stop on a highway in eastern Beijing by a motorist who swerved his car in front of the truck, and then used his microblog to alert animal-rights activists.
China currently does not have any laws to protect non-endangered animals.