SHANGHAI: Shanghai opened one of the world’s biggest dog shows on Tuesday but animal activists and online critics have condemned China’s hosting of the event due to the widespread consumption of dog meat in the country.

The four-day World Dog Show comes for the first time to China, which consumes around one-third of the estimated 30 million dogs eaten for their meat worldwide by humans each year, according to Humane Society International.

Britain’s The Kennel Club, which calls itself the world’s oldest such organisation, has already announced it was snubbing the event, citing the sometimes “brutal” methods used in China to slaughter canines.

“The Kennel Club will not be attending the show with its roadshow stand,” it said in a statement on its website.

Various animal rights organisations have launched campaigns against the decision by the Belgium-based World Canine Organisation, known by its French acronym FCI, to award the event to China, and a petition on social-action site has drawn more than 700,000 signatures.

Activist groups said they were using the event to highlight the dichotomy between China’s love of the dog as a companion and the persistence of the meat trade.

“It’s a double standard that enrages many dog lovers throughout China, who are frustrated at how this illegal trade is allowed to continue,” Humane Society International said in a statement.

But some attendees said the show could be a force for change.

“There are a lot of conflicting views on this topic, because if the World Dog Show does not come to China then more people won’t have the chance to understand these pets,” said Bao Zi, a Chinese kennel owner and breeder.

“Eating dogs — I can only say it’s for Chinese law to put out a policy as soon as possible to stop these things happening.”

Campaigners stress that the show is being held just weeks before an annual dog-meat festival held in southern China.

Activists say thousands of dogs are killed each year for the festival in the town of Yulin in Guangxi province, where dogs are eaten to mark the late-June summer solstice.

Man bites dog

Humane Society International said Monday that Chinese animal rights campaigners found that three restaurants in Shanghai were serving dog meat and had rescued 22 canines from a slaughterhouse in an adjacent province.

Representatives of the show’s local organiser, the China Kennel Union, were not immediately available for comment on the criticisms.

A range of dog breeds will compete in contests of agility, obedience, and other disciplines in the show. Recent versions of the event claimed to have drawn up to 20,000 entrants.

In 2015, after Shanghai’s choice drew criticism, the FCI defended it as a way to promote the protection of “man’s best friend”.

Some Chinese dog owners said the critics were barking up the wrong tree.

“China is not a country that collectively eats dog meat”, the owner of a Chinese kennel said on the popular Weibo platform.

“Compared to some regions in Europe that kill seals, keep killer whales in captivity, the Spanish slaughtering of bulls and tormenting of greyhounds, the majority of us Chinese pet owners are much nicer,” the post said.