Local authorities canceled a three-day festival that had been planned for Oct. 18 in Jinhua City, Zhejiang province, after tens of thousands of people who organized over the Internet complained.
The festival was part of a local tradition dating back to 1389, when legend has it that a Ming dynasty military hero who was trying to capture Jinhua decided to kill all the dogs so they wouldn't bark at night and disrupt his invasion.
"True, it was part of our cultural history, but not all culture should be inherited," said Chen Manhong, director of the Small Animal Protection Society Rescue in nearby Hangzhou. "Women used to have their feet bound but we don't do that anymore."
Activists said 5,000 to 10,000 dogs would be butchered for the festival without regard to their suffering. Photographs and graphic accounts of the slaughter have circulated for the last few weeks over the Internet, with tens of thousands of people expressing outrage.
"Dogs would be stabbed, strangled and even beaten into comas and thrown into boiling water. Some dogs woke up in the extremely hot water and they struggled, but the vendors kept pushing them, plucking their fur," wrote one activist, Wang Lingyi, in a micro-blog posting.
Bowing to public pressure, the municipal government decided Monday night to cancel the festival. An official who gave his name as Zhang was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency saying,"Some villagers argued that they had emotional attachments to the festival, as it had been passed from generation to generation, while some said it should be listed as the city's cultural heritage."
Wang, the activist, said the decision showed not only changing attitudes in China toward animals but the power of the Internet. "I think the government canceled the festival mainly because they are under so much pressure of the netizens," he said.
-- Barbara Demick
Photo: A dog presumably not headed for a cooking pot is given a ride in Beijing. Credit: Diego Azubel / EPA