The mutts were destined for the dinner table — all 520 of them crammed onto a truck hurtling down a Beijing highway toward waiting restaurants in northeastern China.
Then fate intervened in the form of a passing driver, an animal lover who spotted the truck and angrily forced it off the road. From there, things began spiraling out of control.
News of the confrontation hit the Chinese blogosphere, sending more than 200 animal activists flocking immediately to the highway. Dozens of police officers were called in. Animal activists, however, kept arriving with reinforcements, carrying water, dog food, even trained veterinarians for a siege that ended up lasting 15 hours.
Weeks later, those who were there still talk in disbelief at how quickly things escalated. But in many ways, it was a battle that has been brewing for years between the rural and the urbanites, the poor and the rich — between the dog eaters of China and the growing number of dog lovers.
The standoff last month has sparked the widest ranging discussions to date in China over animal rights. Pictures and videos from the incident have spawned endless arguments on e-mail groups and blogs, Web polls and news stories delving into each sides’ points.
And the debate is the latest sign of China’s rapidly changing mores and culture. For centuries, dog meat has been coveted for its fragrant and unique flavor, an especially popular dish in the winter when it is believed to keep you warm.
But pet ownership has skyrocketed in recent years as China’s booming economy produced a burgeoning middle class with both money and time for four-legged friends. The mob of dog lovers finally won the standoff by pooling together more than $17,000 to pay off the truck driver.
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