BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government has banned a traditional carnival in the east of the country in which dogs are eaten after being chopped up alive in the street following a public uproar that the festival was cruel, state media reported on Wednesday.
The tradition in Qianxi in the wealthy coastal province of Zhejiang dates back 600 years to celebrate a local military victory and is normally held every October, the official Xinhua news agency said.
"The ancient fair was replaced by a modern commodity fair in the 1980s, but dog-eating has been kept as a tradition," it reported.
"However, vendors began to butcher dogs in public a few years ago to show their dog meat is fresh and safe, as a way to ease buyers' worry that the meat may be refrigerator-preserved or even contaminated."
Pictures which circulated online via popular microblogging sites had such an impact that the government gave into demands the festival be banned, Xinhua said.
"The government's quick response should be encouraged. I hope eating dogs will not be a custom there anymore. It's not a carnival, but a massacre," it quoted one internet user as saying.
Despite once being banned as a bad bourgeois habit, dog ownership has become increasingly popular with China's growing middle class in the past few years, as has online activism.
While the government has encouraged people to take to the internet to expose corruption and abuse of power, it keeps a tight reign on what can be said online, deleting comments it objects to and arresting those who criticize too much.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)