Animal rights campaigners in China have handed in a petition with 11 million signatures calling for an end to the annual dog-eating festival in the southern city of Yulin.
There have been frequent calls to treat animals more humanely.
About 24 activists, along with their dogs and carrying banners with pictures of their pets alongside the message "I'm not your dinner," handed in the petition in Beijing.
The annual festival — due to begin on 21 June — involves the slaughter of thousands of dogs for human consumption.
The festival is an ancient tradition and annual celebration of Chinese culture. It is celebrated by eating canine meat, lychees and drinking liquor. Dog meat is part of diet in countries like China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea.
The majority of dogs who are slaughtered for their meat are actually stolen pets, according to Hong Kong-based charity Animal Asia. These animals are treated cruelly and are kept in tiny cages where they are either poisoned, beaten to death, or they die of starvation and dehydration.
There has been increased global criticism, especially from Western countries and animal rights campaigners, who not only ask that eating dog meat be outlawed, but have grave concerns about the way the animals are kept and killed before being consumed.
According to the Humane Society International, the event is a "nightmare, not a festival."
“Right now in and around Yulin, China, thousands of dogs, many of them stolen pets, will be captured and transported over long distances under horrific conditions. There, they’ll be held in crowded cages without food or water until they are killed, all as part of an annual dog meat festival,” they write on their site.
“China’s dog meat trade is animal abuse and criminality on a massive scale, and a stain on China’s international reputation,” says Peter Li, China policy expert at Humane Society International (HSI), in a statement after presenting the petition to the Yulin government office in Beijing.
But those in favor argue that eating dog meat is no different from eating any other meat. They also cite a long list of advantages like curing rheumatism, benefiting the kidneys, the stomach and even improve a man’s sex drive.
Although the local government claims to have banned the inhumane festival, thousands of cats and dogs are killed and sold each year in China. The highly controversial festival is also opposed by a majority of Chinese people, who believe the practice doesn’t reflect the Chinese culture at all. In fact, they believe that the horrific event, which started in recent years, is promoted by traders to boost their meat sales.