The Summer Solstice is traditionally celebrated in some parts of China by the slaughter and eating of thousands of dogs.
This year, residents have actually begun the killing earlier in an effort to avoid the protests of animal rights groups. In the southern Chinese city of Yulin the dog gathering started last weekend. People eat an unlikely combination of dog meat and lychees to celebrate the Summer Solstice, usually on the longest day of the year. However, the state media reported that this year the celebrations have already started.
In recent years the festival has been dogged (sorry!) by protesters, both online and in person, targeting slaughterhouses and markets where dogs are sold. The opposition to the tradition reflects the fact that China is evolving, and a newly affluent middle class is now questioning practices which were taken for granted in the past.
The media in China have shown photos of Yulin residents enjoying a feast of dog meat, vegetables, and lychees. Other widely circulated pictures on various blog sites show skinned or cooked dogs hanging from hooks at street stalls or piled up on tables.
According to Yulin tradition, eating dog and lychees and drinking liquor on the Summer Solstice is supposed to make people stay healthy during winter.
The animal rights groups claim that the practice is dangerous and constitutes a public health risk because the dogs are strays which are simply taken off the streets or grabbed from their owners. They are not quarantined or checked in any way to see if they are free from disease. They further allege that the dogs are frequently poisoned with toxic chemicals which are also harmful to humans.
The Yulin authorities say that celebrating the Summer Solstice by eating dog meat is not officially sanctioned, and they say that they asked restaurants to remove any reference to dogs. The problem is that their powers are limited, since they cannot ban the sale and consumption of the meat, which is not illegal in China.
The Central Chinese government simply does not admit that such a festival exists. They say that the habit of eating dog meat is followed by very few businesses and individuals.
From a purely objective viewpoint, it is interesting to reflect on why eating certain animals is regarded as taboo in some cultures, whilst eating other animals is acceptable.
However, it is unlikely that the good people of Yulin province will consider the philosophical aspects of tucking into Fido as they celebrate the Summer Solstice in their own unique way.