BEIJING - Animal lovers provoked an angry backlash from residents of a Chinese city after protesting a controversial festival on Saturday in which locals celebrate the summer solstice by eating dog meat, witnesses and the media said.
Activists have flocked for weeks to Yulin, in the south-western region of Guangxi, to protest the local custom of eating dogs - particularly on the summer solstice, which fell on Saturday, in an event dubbed the "Dog Meat Festival".
But their efforts have backfired. "A lot of people have said, 'I don't eat dog meat, but just because of these idiots, I will go buy dog meat to eat and to give to my friends to eat," a 50-year-old animal rights advocate visiting Yulin told AFP by phone.
The activist, who asked not to be named due to sensitivities around the issue, added that outside criticism had "created a sense of confrontation".
"These outsiders coming in as dog lovers are just troublemakers coming to Yulin to create unrest," he cited locals as saying.
Yulin residents traditionally buy live dogs on the morning of the solstice, then gather for dinner to eat the dog meat, the activist, from the southern city of Shenzhen, said.
He said he had seen a few dozen other activists show up in Yulin to discourage the practice, sometimes by handing out fliers and holding banners.
Despite their efforts, however, early on Saturday more vendors than normal could be seen selling dog meat, and deliveries came in mini-buses rather than by motorbike as usual, only to disappear quickly, local media reported.
"The vendors were way too busy, virtually all of them had staffed an extra cashier," the Legal Evening News said.