A city in southern China went ahead with an annual dog meat eating festival despite heavy criticism and protests from animal rights activists.
Vendors slaughtered dogs and cooked their meat in dozens of restaurants across the city of Yulin, in an event that has come to symbolise the cruelty and potential for spreading disease associated with the largely unregulated industry.
Activists bought dogs from dealers who had been planning to slaughter them, while local residents complained outsiders were ruining what they consider a local tradition.
“We came to Yulin to tell people here dogs are our friends. They should not kill dogs in such a cruel way and many of the dogs they killed are pet dogs,” said Yang Yuhua, a volunteer from the central city of Chongqing.
It is thought that between 10 million and 20 million dogs are killed for meat each year in China, and the Yulin event has been heavily criticised.
Many of the dogs are believed to have been pets stolen from their owners or simply picked up off the streets.
They are put in cages, and taken to the city about 1,250 miles south of Beijing in the province of Guangxi, often without food or water. Cats eaten at the festival are subjected to similar ill treatment.
The local government has in recent years sought to disassociate itself from the event, forbidding its employees from attending and limiting its size by shutting down some dog markets and slaughter houses.
“The so-called dog meat eating festival has never been officially recognised by government or by any regulations or laws,” said an official.
“We hold meetings every time before the so-called festival, discussing counter measures such as deploying local police, business and sanitary authorities to inspect and deal with those who sell dogs.”
Opponents this year expanded their campaign to the United States, petitioning politicians in San Francisco to pressure their Chinese colleagues into calling for an end to the slaughter.
Actors including Matt Damon, Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara, released an announcement calling for an end to the torture and killing of dogs in China, South Korea and other Asian nations.
It focused particularly on the practice of killing dogs by beating, burning and other painful methods in the belief that dying by torture makes their meat taste better.