Shanghai hosts one of the world”s biggest dog shows beginning on Tuesday but animal activists and online critics are condemning the event due to the widespread consumption of dog meat in China.
The four-day World Dog Show comes for the first time to China, which consumes around one-third of the estimated 30 million dogs eaten for their meat worldwide by humans each year, according to Humane Society International.
Britain”s The Kennel Club, which calls itself the world”s oldest such organisation, has already announced it was snubbing the event, citing the sometimes “brutal” methods used in China to slaughter canines.
“The Kennel Club will not be attending the show with its roadshow stand,” it said in a statement on its website.
Various animal rights organisations have launched campaigns against the decision by the Belgium-based World Canine Organisation, known by its French acronym FCI, to award the event to China, and a petition on social-action site Care2.com condemning the show has drawn more than 730,000 signatures.
Activist groups said they were using the event to highlight the dichotomy between China”s love of the dog as a companion and the persistence of the dog meat trade.
“It”s a double standard that enrages many dog lovers throughout China, who are frustrated at how this illegal trade is allowed to continue,” Humane Society International said in a statement.
Campaigners stress that the show is being held just weeks before an annual dog-meat festival held in southern China.
Activists say thousands of dogs are killed each year for the festival in the town of Yulin in Guangxi province, where dogs are eaten to mark the late-June summer solstice.
Humane Society International said Monday that Chinese animal rights campaigners found that three restaurants in Shanghai were serving dog meat dishes and had rescued 22 canines from a slaughterhouse in an adjacent province.
Representatives of the show”s local organiser, the China Kennel Union, were not immediately available for comment on the criticisms.
A range of dog breeds will compete in contests of agility, obedience, and other disciplines in the show. Recent versions of the event claimed to have drawn up to 20,000 entrants.
In 2015, after Shanghai”s choice drew criticism, the FCI defended it as a way to promote the protection of “man”s best friend”.
The show has generated little discussion on Chinese social media, often the country”s best gauge of public opinion.
But some Chinese dog owners said critics were barking up the wrong tree.
The show “China is not a country that collectively eats dog meat”, the owner of a Chinese kennel said on the popular Weibo platform.
“Compared to some regions in Europe that kills seals, keep killer whales in captivity, the Spanish slaughtering of bulls and tormenting of greyhounds, the majority of us Chinese pet owners are much nicer,” the post said.