BEIJINGAnimal rights activists are seeking to shut down an annual summer dog meat festival in southern China blamed for harming the country’s international reputation as well as fueling extreme cruelty to canines and unhygienic food handling practices.

Activists from a coalition of groups said Monday that they will continue press for the festival to be banned as well as legislation outlawing the slaughtering of dogs and cats and the consumption of their meat.

While an estimated 10 million-20 million dogs are killed for their meat each year in China, the June 20 event in the city of Yulin has come to symbolize the cruelty and lack of hygiene associated with the largely unregulated industry.

Yu Hongmei, director of the VShine Animal Protection Association, said China needs to follow the example of the vast majority of developed nations that have banned eating dog and cat.

“China needs to progress with the times,” Yu said. “Preventing cruelty to animals is the sign of a mature, civilized society.”

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