Tide Turning on Chinese Dog Meat Festival Which Sees 10,000 Dogs Slaughtered

Up to 10,000 dogs are expected to have been slaughtered over Sunday and Monday for the festival Humane Society International

A total of 10,000 dogs will have been killed, cooked and eaten in the last two days as part of the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China, which marks the summer solstice, despite a global outcry from animal rights groups, campaigners and celebrities to stop the festival.

Wendy Higgins, the EU communications director of Humane Society International, who attended this year's festival as an observer, says that each year, around 10,000 dogs in the south of China are taken from their homes or the streets and transported for days in order to be sold on the black market at the festival.

But Higgins says she believes it is finally the "beginning of the end for the dog meat festival in China", thanks to celebrity-backed campaigns to stop the festival and a wave of change amongst China's new young dog-owning generation.

According to Higgins, owners keep the dogs in crowded metal cages and beat them to death with a blunt object, believing that the more fear and pain a dog endures before its death, the tastier the meat is to consume. Some are even boiled when still alive.

Supporters of the tradition of eating dog meat during the Yulin festival in Guangxi province argue that the ritual dates back to over four hundred years in China, South Korea and in various other Asian countries.

But animal rights activist claim that whilst dog meat has been a delicacy in rural parts of the country for some time, the mass transportation and culling of the dogs before for the Yulin festival only dates back as far as 2010 and was invented as a way for dog meat traders to boost profit from increased tourism in the area.

Live dog markets Humane Society International

In the lead up to the festival this year, celebrities both inside and outside of China began stepping up a campaign to push for a ban on the tradition.

High-profile figures included British comedian Ricky Gervais and Chinese actors Sun Li and Yang Mi who campaigned on Chinese microblogging site Weibo by posting pictures of their dogs and anti-Yulin festival posters and messages.

Videos containing the voices of high profile Chinese actors, such as Fan Bingbing, calling for the end to the festival have also been circulating online.

A Change.org petition, which began in Canada, has also been gathering momentum online, with almost four million people having signed their names to protest against the festival.

Higgins says that there is now a push for change, coming specifically from younger generations in the country.

Older generations, who mostly eat the dog meat, had never "experienced loving relationships with cats or dogs as they weren't allowed to keep them as pets whilst living under the previous communist regime in the country," Higgins said.

"Now, the younger upwardly mobile pet owning generation do not want to see the animals killed and are speaking out about it."

Higgins said the ritual has come up against so much opposition that the killing is now done in private, saying she only witnessed the slaughtering of dogs in darkness, between the hours of 3-6am.

Each year it is estimated that 10 million dogs are slaughtered in China alone, some of the other countries involved in the dog meat industry are Indonesia, Korea, Philippines and Vietnam.

Higgins thinks the international campaign has now become too big to ignore: "The protests have reached a critical mass and China really wants to solve the problem itself. This is certainly the beginning of the end for the festival in Yulin."