10,000 dogs and cats are allegedly killed and eaten during the festival

Yulin’s controversial annual dog meat festival beings today, despite cancellation rumours.

The BBC reports that US campaigners claimed that authorities had told vendors not to sell dog meat this year. However, stall holders denied hearing anything and on 15 May, city official confirmed that no ban was implemented.

Today, dead dogs were seen hanging from meat hooks at stalls in Dongkou market, Yulin’s biggest city. A heavy police presence on the streets was also reported.

Year on year, the festival sees disputes between stall owners and activists who try to rescue the dogs. One activist told the BBC that she was prevented from entering Dashichang market, where live dogs were being sold.

Yulin is not the biggest dog meat consumer in Guangxi province but has been the centre of the dispute since the festival began 10 years ago.

Residents and vendors claim that the dogs are killed humanely and that eating them is not more cruel than eating other animals. Some argue that foreigners are interfering with local traditions.

Consuming dog is an old tradition in a number of other Asian countries, including South Korea and China. In Chinese culture, eating dogs is considered beneficial during the hot summer months.

Critics claim dogs are transported from other cities in small and cramped cages before they are brutally killed. Activists also claim that many dogs consumed in the festival are stolen pets.

In China there are 62 million registered dogs as pets.

Eating dogs is not illegal in China and the Yulin government said it does not officially organise the festival so is not able to prohibit it.

Activists allege that 10,000 dogs and cats are killed and eaten on average during the 10-day festival.