On the eve of the infamous annual "dog meat festival" in China, majority of Chinese today for the first time called for an end to the gory event in which over 10,000 canines are expected to be slaughtered and eaten by dog meat lovers.
As the event is set to kick off tomorrow in Yulin city, in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today that majority of Chinese call for an end to "Yulin Dog Meat Festival", saying it has "harmed China's reputation" world over.
About 64 per cent of those surveyed in age group of 16 to 50, said they would support a permanent end to the infamous annual event.
Yulin residents too backed the ban which link their town with the event.
About 51.7 per cent of the respondents - who included Yulin residents too - wanted the dog meat trade banned completely, while 69 per cent said they have never eaten dog meat.
"The poll shows most people here don't eat dogs," said Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association charity, one of a cluster of animal welfare groups that commissioned the survey.
Yulin, a small town in southwest China's Guangxi region, has become notorious in recent years for its "dog meat festival", a commercial event in which thousands of dogs and cats are slaughtered and eaten.
Local businesses launched the festival - arguing it was a tradition and part of the local culture - in 2009 to promote the remote area to tourists.
"It is embarrassing to us that the world wrongly believes that the brutally cruel Yulin festival is part of Chinese culture," Qin said, adding "it isn't".
The festival in recent years evoked revulsion in China as many Chinese have turned to pets in recent years to cope up with loneliness as the only child permitted under law left home for education or jobs.
A 2015 survey showed an estimated 30 million urban households owned companion animals.
As the dog eating festival neared, Chinese social media is full of alerts to the pet owners asking them to protect their pet from dog thieves.
However, even in the official media, the event had its supporters as the state-run Global Times carried an article saying that "Dog meat festival shouldn't be canceled forcefully".
"It is understandable that many Westerners oppose eating dog meat. Muslims and Hindus have their own taboos against eating some particular kind of meat, and in their eyes, some Western-style eating habits might be insulting," it said.
"Unfortunately, now westerners are demanding non- westerners change their eating habits, because they think their cultures and feelings deserve more respect than others. Such a condescending attitude is not comfortable," it said.
However, the support for a ban is growing.
"An unprecedented 8 million Chinese voted online in support of lawmaker Zheng Xiaohe's legislative proposal during the National People's Congress in March to ban the illegal dog and cat meat trade," Xinhua report said.
Last week, a petition to ban the dog slaughter, signed by 11 million people from China and abroad, was presented to the Chinese embassy in London.
A draft law to prohibit and punish cruelty to animals was submitted to China's highest legislature in 2009.
Since then, Tenger, a famous Mongolia singer and political adviser, has been presenting his proposal to implement the law at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference annual meeting.
His proposal has topped online opinion polls, backed by a growing number of Chinese animal lovers.