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  1. ITV Report

Millions protest as China's controversial Yulin Dog Meat Festival begins

Millions of people have signed an online petition calling for an end to China's controversial annual Yulin Dog Meal Festival, which begins today.

Dogs are packed into cages, ready to sell Credit: Reuters
Butchered dogs reads to be chopped and cooked Credit: Reuters

Animal rights campaigners and staunch dog meat supporters have already clashed as the region prepares for the event.

Each year, thousands of dogs are slaughtered during the festival, which marks the peak of summer in the town of Yulin, in Guangxi province.

But animal rights campaigners have highlighted what they say are cruel transportation methods and torture, with animals beaten and skinned alive before being cooked.

A change.org petition, calling for an end to the "inhumane" tradition, has attracted more than 3.8 million signatures to date, with the Humane Society International and TV star Ricky Gervais leading the charge in raising awareness.

Slaughtered dogs are cooked Credit: Reuters
Vendors haggle for a price on one of the puppies Credit: Reuters

The hashtag #StopYulin2015 has become the campaign's signature line.

Those who support the event claim it is no different to eating pigs or chickens - but it is the practices used to kill the animals which has angered many.

The Humane Society International says rogue dog meat traders are known to steal family pets to kill and sell for meat, with dogs and cats packed into tiny cages as they are transported long distances to meet their brutal fate.

Thousands of dogs, many of them stolen pets, are captured and transported over long distances under horrific conditions to Yulin.

There, they’re held in crowded cages without food or water until they are killed.

Often, they are beaten and their throats are slit in front of other terrified animals. Most Chinese citizens reject this practice, and we’re committed to supporting them in changing their laws.

– Humane Society International
The dogs are often beaten and skinned alive before being cooked, campaigners say Credit: Reuters

Last year, they added, thanks to "overwhelming" international pressure, the authorities in Yulin withdrew their support for the festival.

But the charity now wants to see the tradition stamped out altogether.

Among those on the ground in Yulin is campaigner Yang Xiaoyun, who last year spent 150,000 yuan (£15,200) buying around 350 dogs from meat traders to save them from the chopping block.

This year, she has vowed to do the same - her pockets filled with extra cash donated by concerned animal lovers from around the country.

Animal rights campaigner Yang Xiaoyun was confronted by pro-dog meat activists Credit: RTV
Pro-dog meat campaigners defend their right to take part in the festival Credit: RTV

She was at the town's main market place yesterday (Sunday), but was chased out empty-handed by angry dog meat supporters.

At the moment we don't have the ability to change people's habits, this is the government's responsibility, isn't it?.

If the government had animal protection laws, the people would naturally change. If the government doesn't have a law, there's no way the few of us who come here every year to buy dogs can change people's habits.

At the moment my philosophy is, you eat yours and I'll buy mine. This kind of bad habit will change sooner or later.

Calls from around the world will prompt an animal protection law sooner or later.

– Yang Xiaoyun, campaigner