Animal rights campaigners have launched a poster campaign urging Chinese diners to turn down cat and dog dishes, with the group calling for the creatures to be considered “friends, not food.”
The 279 adverts were put up in 14 cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Hong Kong-based campaign group Animals Asia said.
Cat and dog meat are not widely eaten in China, but can be found at some restaurants, particularly in the south, where they are sometimes considered specialities.
However, as the country has grown wealthier pet ownership has increased, and more than 30 million households now keep a cat or dog, according to research group Euromonitor.
Animals Asia appeared to be trying to tap into that growing demographic of pet owners.
One poster showed a small girl sitting with two dogs, while a human hand aimed a pair of chopsticks at one of the animals.
“What you just put into your mouth could have been a child’s partner in growth,” the advertisement read. “Be healthy. Say no to cat and dog meat.”
Animals Asia said on its Web site that the posters, announced earlier this month, aimed to inform the public of health risks from eating cat and dog, and were intended “to prompt people to re-evaluate why they’d eat animals they might otherwise consider friends, not food.”
China does not have any laws to protect animals that are not endangered.
The animal rights movement in the country remains small, but it is growing, with volunteers banding together to mount rescues of dogs and cats from trucks transporting them to restaurants where they are served as meat.
About 600 cats stuffed into wooden crates and on their way to such a fate were rescued after a truck crash in January.