The local government in Jinhua City, China, has decided to end a 600-year-old tradition — butchering, cooking, and eating dogs at an annual festival. Here's what you should know:
How did this tradition begin?
According to legend, a Ming dynasty military leader was trying to invade Jinhua in 1389. To avoid detection, his troops killed all the area's dogs so their barking wouldn't alert the local population. After the successful invasion, "the army held a celebratory feast and served the meat from the slaughtered dogs," says the International Business Times.
And they kept killing dogs year after year?
Yes. As many as 10,000 dogs were eaten each year by attendees at the celebration. "Dogs would be stabbed, strangled and even beaten into comas and thrown into boiling water," says activist Wang Lingyi, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times. But after overwhelming protests on Chinese internet sites, the government elected to make the festival a thing of the past.
Is dog-eating common in China?
Not like it used to be. It's still socially acceptable, and dogs in cages are a common sight at meat markets. Dog meat was even consumed by Chinese astronauts in space. But dog ownership has increased in recent years (it was banned as a "bourgeois habit" during China's cultural revolution), and many middle-class and one-child families now keep dogs as pets.
Is everyone happy about the festival cancellation?
No. "Some villagers argued that they had emotional attachments to the festival, as it had been passed from generation to generation," says China's Xinhua news agency. But many applauded the decision, and an online poll on the Chinese social networking site Weibo showed that some 90 percent of voters wanted the practice ended.