The summer solstice used to be one of the happiest moments for residents of the city of Yulin in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region for decades before their dog meat festival drew keen attention from the Internet and animal protection groups, about four years ago. With this year's summer solstice nearing, a campaign against this festival has been triggered on the Internet.
A picture of a puppy shedding a blood-red tear went viral on the Internet. Many Net users posted it on their social media accounts with remarks following the same pattern:
I live in ____. I oppose the dog-meat festival on June 21. You don't have to love dogs, but please don't hurt them.
Celebrities including movie stars showed their support, and their influence pushed the campaign forward into a nationwide debate.
Different from the more usual public debates like construction of a chemical plant, there is a tit-for-tat internal division in public opinion about this issue.
Many say eating dog is a long Chinese tradition, and there is no law or custom forbidding people from eating them, while others believe dogs are pets, not livestock. They should not be eaten as this has become a widely accepted norm of a modern developed society.
This "modern concept versus traditional stereotype" spat poses a thorny difficulty for local authorities, mired in a dilemma: They can neither turn a blind eye nor can they intervene too much to make a difference.
Since there are no specific laws and traditional culture cannot be forcibly abandoned, the local government should shift their attention to a more feasible approach. If the tradition is difficult to remove in a short period of time, the authorities need to initiate and carry out more strict rules regulating local restaurants, especially food hygiene. There must be harsh measures to ensure the source of the dog meat is legal and safe. A crackdown on stealing domestic and stray dogs must be imposed.
This approach is doable and can make sure the local government won't be criticized for being biased or overstepping the rule of law. This dog-meat spat is not only a matter for the masses, but a test for the local government, whose ability to deal with public incidents determines its governing capacity.