Participants in the Chinese festival for the summer solstice in Yulin decided to schedule their annual events a week early after taking heat from activists about the ritual of eating dogs. It is not illegal to eat dogs in China, but with changing times and more Chinese citizens owning pets, the centuries-old tradition has received pushback.

In order to avoid protests and uproar, the festival, during which thousands of dogs are slaughtered, was held in part last weekend in the southern city, a week earlier than this Saturday's summer solstice.

Via the AP:

Photos on state media showed groups of Yulin city residents tucking into plates of meat and vegetables around dining tables strewn with lychees. Other photos, which circulated widely on Chinese microblogs, were of skinned, cooked dogs hanging from hooks at street stalls or piled on tables.

The festival's other staples are lychee and alcohol. Drinking liquor and eating dog meat with lychee during the solstice is supposed to make people stay healthy during the winter.

Deng Yidan, an activist for Animals China, said in a statement that "negative coverage is growing." She continues:

"Dog theft, criminal activities, food hygiene issues, and rabies fears - not to mention the division in society between those for and against the festival - together these have brought significantly more negative publicity to Yulin than economic benefits."

The government of Yulin says that it does not officially endorse dog-eating.

[Image via AP]