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Terrified Dogs Rescued Ahead Of Annual Yulin Festival

Animal activists have rescued more than 60 "terrified" dogs ahead of an annual dog meat festival in China's Guangxi province. 

The dogs were kept inside a grimy slaughterhouse in the Chinese city of Yulin, where they were almost certainly going to be sold for food at the annual dog meat festival.

They were severely dehydrated and malnourished with some showing signs of sickness and infection, according to Humane Society International (HSI).

A few of the dogs still wore collars, indicating they could be stolen pets.

"It was swelteringly hot inside the slaughterhouse when we got there," one of the anonymous Chinese activists told HSI, which provided the statement.

"The dogs were exhausted and panting, some pressing themselves tight against the wall in an effort not to be noticed. Others chased around our legs eager for attention."

Yulin
The dogs were in distress and kept in filthy conditions, activists said. Photo: HSI.

The Dogs Saved From has taken place annually in China since about 2009, during which thousands of dogs -- many believed to be strays, or stolen pets -- are slaughtered for food. It does not have the backing of the local government, and is more of a trade event to boost sales of dog meat and lychee liquor.

READ MORE: What Is The Yulin Dog Meat Festival?

"We want the world to see the horrors of China's dog meat trade of which Yulin is typical, and for dog lovers everywhere to stand up against this terrible cruelty," the anonymous activist continued.

"Please don't waste your breath calling dog eating Chinese culture. It's not our culture to steal people's pets. It is not our culture to eat dogs."

There's a misconception that dogs are regularly eaten in China, although one study on Yulin specifically found a not insignificant number of consumers are by "chance" or "accident".

Yulin
The rescued dogs are the "lucky ones", with thousands expected to be slaughtered. Photo: HSI.

Dr Pan Wang, Senior Lecturer in Chinese studies at UNSW, told 10 daily that changing demographics was seeing an increasing number of people keep dogs as pets.

"China is entering the second state demographic transition," she told 10 daily.

"A lot of poeple are unmarried, a lot of people are divorced, or widowed, and a lot of singletons are having dogs as companies. Dogs are not just dogs, they symbolise loyalty and keeping you safe when you're lonely."

She also pointed to Chinese populations of Buddhists, Muslims, Jewish people and vegans as changing attitudes towards dog meat, as well as a younger generation influenced by Western ideals of dogs as pets, not food.

An increasing number of Chinese people are keeping dogs as pets. Photo: Getty.

"According to my observation, [the number of people eating dog meat] has decreased," she said, although a lack of reliable data said it is hard to tell whether the decrease has been significant.

According to HSI, less than 20 percent of the Chinese population regularly eat meat. More the point, more than half (51 percent) of the population want the trade banned entirely, according to a 2016 survey commissioned by a number of animal welfare groups (including HSI) from Chinese polling company Horizon.

It's estimated that as many as 3,000 dogs will be killed throughout the Yulin festival, a number reduced from 15,000 due to international pressure.

A petition with almost 1.5 million signatures demanding the closure of the festival was delivered this week to the Chinese Embassy in London.

Yulin
Two campaigners at the Chinese embassy in London. Photo: HSI.

A number of big names added their support to the petition, including Dame Judy Dench.

"It fills me with sadness to think the Yulin dog meat festival is just around the corner again," she said.

"So I wanted to send this message as a symbol of my solidarity with all the thousands of people in China against the dog meat trade, who love their dogs and cats just as much as we do, but who go through the awful heartache of having them stolen by dog thieves.

"I cannot imagine the suffering of those poor dogs, and I hope very much that one day soon this cruel trade will end."

The dogs rescued are traumatised and in need of veterinary care, but they are the "lucky ones", said HSI's China policy specialist HSI.

"Sadly, thousands more will still die at Yulin, and millions across China, unless decisive action is taken. So we urge the Chinese government to show that it will not tolerate the dog thief gangs who perpetuate this trade, and bring an end to the brutal dog and cat meat trade."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au