Litchi and dog meat is the unlikely favourite combo of people in Yulin, South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on summer solstice. In fact, the local catering industry has been using the combo to promote the summer solstice "festival" since the late 1990s, claiming ancient herbal medicine books say that eating litchi and dog meat together can help people overcome the negative effects of the hot and humid weather.
For the past few years, animal rights activists, both from home and abroad, have been urging people to boycott the "festival", their main objection being against the mass slaughter of dogs. But those who love dog meat say the "festival" is part of local tradition. The Yulin local government, on its part, has decided not to interfere in the issue, because it is a civil matter.
The difference between humans and other animals is that humans always want more than they need to sustain their lives. The number of animal species (not to speak of plant species) that has become extinct in the past 200 years is perhaps more than the total number of people criticising Yulin residents for eating dog meat, but surprisingly these critics have had nothing to say about the great loss.
The animal protection groups, especially those concentrated in cities and focused on pets such as dogs and cats, are a product of the very industrial system that believes in making money from people's insatiable greed and love for certain things, including dogs.
Dog lovers regard dogs as human beings' best friends. But what about pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits, fish and shrimps?
If "foolish" animals such as pigs, cows, sheep, chickens and ducks deserve to be slaughtered for their meat and feathers to meet human demand, as the dog lovers' have insinuated, people consuming their meat and using their byproducts are no different from those who love to eat dog meat.
True, both dog lovers and dog meat eaters have the right to assert their beliefs. But when their assertions lead to confrontation and ultimately to violence, the government has to intervene.
According to the Guangxi public health department, about 300 people die of rabies every year in the region, the most among all China's provinces and regions, and the highest per cent of such deaths occur in Yulin.
The dogs that are slaughtered in Yulin come from different channels. Stealing and selling dogs is a flourishing illegal business, especially before the "festival", in Yulin and some other places. Although restaurants serving dog meat in Yulin claim the dogs come from dog farms, the animals that are slaughtered are of various sizes, breeds and ages, and in different health conditions. Some dog farms in China breed dogs to be sold as pets, but not "for slaughter", because breeding dogs for the abattoirs is not a profitable business.
The onus is thus on the authorities to strengthen food-safety inspections to ensure that the dog meat sold in the market is safe for human consumption.