BEIJING –– Animal rights campaigners in China have handed in a petition with 11 million signatures calling for an end to an annual dog-eating festival in the south-west of the country.
Activists want to stop the consumption of dog meat at the festival in the southern city of Yulin which is due to begin later this month.
Correspondents say animal rights is a growing concern in China.
There have been frequent calls to treat animals more humanely.
About 24 activists accompanied by their dogs handed in the petition at the representative office of Yulin city in the Chinese capital, Beijing. They unfurled banners with pictures of their pets alongside the message: “I’m not your dinner.”
The annual festival –– due to begin on June 21 –– involves the slaughter of thousands of dogs for human consumption.
Figures cited by The Washington Post say about 30 million dogs are killed across Asia every year for their meat, with more than a third of that number killed in China.
Opponents say many dogs are either stolen or are strays rounded up for the festival. They say many are caged in cramped conditions before being killed.
Campaigning group Humane Society International has described the Yulin event as a “nightmare not a festival”.
Supporters of the festival argue that dog meat is good for people and eating canines is no different from consuming any other meat.
In 2014, the Yulin government distanced itself from the festival, arguing it was organised by private business people and did not have official backing.
Celebrities including British comedian Ricky Gervais have criticised the festival along with Chinese pop star Chen Kun and actors Yang Mi and Fan Bingbing.
The tradition of eating dog meat dates back four or five hundred years in China, South Korea and other countries, as it is believed to ward off the heat of the summer months, according to state news agency Xinhua.
However, the Yulin festival only began in recent years, Xinhua reported last year.