Beijing - In Beijing, senior citizens walking their pet dogs are a common sight. The fluffy pooches, usually not held on leashes, trot alongside their owners, pausing every now and then to sniff around.
They seldom bark and the pedestrians are rarely irked by their presence.
While the owners dote on their furry companions, there are others who rave about the four-legged creatures as a delicacy in the country.
On June 21, an annual "Lychee Dog Meat Festival" will be held in Yulin, Guangxi province, where the canine meat will be enjoyed with lychees and liquor as a summer tradition.
Almost seven weeks before the scheduled event, opposing views have begun to surface.
On microblogging site Weibo and photo-sharing app Instagram, celebrities are voicing their protests against such a festival, which has been condemned as cruel and gruesome.
An illustration of a dog with a red teardrop under its eye along with the headline "Call Off 6.21 Dog Meat Day" is circulating on social media.
An accompanying caption reads: "Please stop eating or hurting our friends. June 21 is dog meat day! Please cancel the day forever. And please support this post and make sure the people who created that day hear our voices and see this post!"
Popular artists such as Vicky Zhao, Yang Mi and Jaycee Chan are among those who shared the post on their social media accounts.
Animal rights groups and shelters also urged their followers to spread the message.
"We are friends, not food," proclaimed a photo posted by the Shenzhen Dog Protection Association on its Weibo account.
The face-off between animal lovers and traditionalists on this issue is repeated every year.
While the former finds the prospect of eating canine meat revolting, the latter insists that it is part of their culture.
Some animal rights activists have cautioned that the dogs that eventually make it to the dining tables could be stolen or strays.
"Of course we shouldn't eat dogs. That's terrible," a comment read.
"It is a traditional festival," retorted one Instagram user to others who criticized the dog-eating practice.
"I grew up eating dog meat. The dogs are raised as food; they are not caught. It's just like how pigs and chicken are reared."
Last year, protests were held in Yulin during the festival to raise awareness against such cruelty, but the festival went on as planned. It was estimated that 10,000 dogs were slaughtered in one day.
Dog meat eaters find it perplexing that the people who protest against eating canines have no qualms about consuming other animals.
The government of Yulin has been staying out of the controversy, saying that the festival was not organized by the government.
State-owned news agency China News Service quoted an official as saying that the government "has no comment" on the festival this year.
The report said the practice was a conflict between local customs and animal protection.
"It exemplifies the diversity in a society and social progress. The government can take a proactive role in guiding the public to treat local customs rationally," Zhou Keda, director of the Institute of Social Sciences at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying.
Community Discussion: Dogs are Friends, Not Food
While the owners dote on their furry companions, others who rave about them as a delicacy
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