Pictures From Yulin Dog Meat Festival Show Heartbreaking Cruelty of Event

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival in southern China's Guangxi region sees thousands of people flock to the city every year—despite the controversial event having drawn criticism from people both in China and abroad.

The festival, which began more than a decade ago, is spread out over the course of 10 days, with visitors coming to eat delicacies such as dog meat stew and crispy dog meat.

The event starts on June 21—the same day as the summer solstice. Pictures from the Yulin Dog Meat Festival over the last decade show the cramped conditions animals are kept in and how they ultimately end up for sale in markets.

dog yulin festival
A dog set for slaughter at a free market ahead of the Yulin Dog Eating Festival in 2014. Activist pressure has meant the number of dogs killed during the festival has reduced significantly in recent years. Getty Images

According to Humane Society International (HSI), it is almost impossible to say exactly how many dogs are killed each year because no official figures are available. However, the number is thought to be in the thousands.

Puppies at Yulin Dog Meat Festival
Puppies are seen in a cage at a dog meat market in Yulin, in China's southern Guangxi region on June 21, 2017. STR/AFP via Getty Images

In the first years of the event, which launched in 2009/2010, it its thought that more than 10,000 dogs were slaughtered during the core days.

Dog meat served at a res
Dog meat is served at a restaurant in Yulin, in China's southern Guangxi region on June 21, 2017. BECKY DAVIS/AFP via Getty Images

But pressure from activists and members of the public within China, as well as abroad, has helped to bring down the size of the event and the number of dogs killed. COVID restrictions have also served to reduce the number of people attending over the past couple of years.

A Yulinvendor holding up a dog
A vendor holding up a dog ahead of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, on June 20, 2014. Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images

Now, HSI estimates that the number of dogs killed is likely in the low thousands, according to reports from activists on the ground. Most of the dogs at the festival have been stolen from their owners or snatched from the street as strays.

Animal activists at Yulin Dog Meat Festival
Activists attempt to save dogs that are caged at a free market ahead of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival on June 21, 2014. Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images

"There is a very vocal opposition to the dog meat trade within China, and that includes what goes on at Yulin," Peter Li, Humane Society International's China policy expert, told Newsweek. "Most people don't want anything to do with the cruelty, and there is a new young affluent generation of Chinese who care deeply about their pets and are appalled by the dog thieves."

Caged dogs to be slaughtered at Yulin
Caged dogs set to be slaughtered at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival on June 19, 2014. Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images

"There have been many appeals over the years for the authorities to introduce a ban, and this is certainly supported and boosted by support from the West," Li said.

"But it's really important to recognise the enormous energy for change that exists within China. There are hundreds of dedicated animal activists who intercept dog and cat trucks on the highway, call in the police to confiscate the animals, and care for them once rescued."

A caged dog at the Yulin festival
A dog looks out from its cage at a stall during the Yulin Dog Meat Festival on June 22, 2015. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

It is estimated that around 10 million dogs and four million cats are killed for their meat every year in China. But polling suggests that dog meat is eaten only by a small portion of the Chinese population, while a 2016 survey found that more than half of Chinese people think the dog meat trade should be banned.

Dog meat vendors in Yulin, China
Vendors wait for customers to buy dogs in cages at a market in Yulin, on June 21, 2015. STR/AFP via Getty Images

Animals that are slaughtered at the festival are often transported and kept in poor conditions, and killed in brutal ways.

"Cruelty and suffering exist at every part of this trade," Li said. "Once at Yulin—or any destination—the unloading of dogs is violent, with cages routinely hurled off of the truck and smashed down on to the ground. Bodily injuries caused by the sharp wire caging, biting, rough handling and limbs becoming crushed, cause untold suffering to the dogs."

Animal activists in Yulin
Animal activists display protest banners outside the Yulin government office in Beijing on June 10, 2016. A group of Chinese and international animal activists presented a petition signed by 11 million people calling on authorities to end the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival. GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images

"The method by which they are slaughtered varies but dogs are usually beaten to death with a metal pipe in full view of each other, and then bled out from a cut to the throat or groin," he said.

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival
Dog meat is served at a restaurant in Yulin on June 21, 2017. BECKY DAVIS/AFP via Getty Images

"When you visit a dog or cat slaughterhouse, you'll find traumatized dogs there who have witnessed the killing of their cage mates and must surely know that the same will happen to them. It's a hugely upsetting experience."

Dogs on sale in Yulin
Dogs on sale at a market in Yulin on June 20, 2014. STR/AFP via Getty Images