Horrifying pictures have emerged of Chinese butchers chopping up carcasses ahead of the Yulin dog meat festival later this month.
It comes despite China vowing to ban the consumption of cats and dogs in the capital Beijing, classifying them companion animals in an extraordinary break with tradition.
The country officially declassified dogs and cats as livestock on May 29 after an announcement last month.
Yet it’s believed China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs is still to ban the brutal practice nationwide, including Guangxi Province where the summer festival takes place, with preparations already underway this week.
The 10-day-long festival, which runs from June 21 and June 30 began in 2009, with an average of 10,000 to 15,000 dogs being slaughtered by being boiled and blow torched alive.
Now eye-witnesses have revealed markets in Yulin are preparing and already selling dog meat by the stack load as they gear up for the dog-eating tradition to go ahead.
Leading animal right’s charity, Humane Society International (HSI), reports Yulin’s dog meat stalls have congregated into Nanchao market ahead of the annual festival.
The local market at Yulin usually sells dog meat at about 60 to 80 yuan (£6.80 to £9.15) per kilo and dog stew is one of the common dishes seen during the festival which is said to have a gamey flavour.
At the same time around 10 “friendly and innocent” puppies have been saved from the chopping block after they were released from their cages at a wet market just outside Yulin.
One of the HSI rescuers, Jenifer Chen, was horrified by the dogs incarceration.
She said: “I can’t believe that anyone would even want to eat these adorable little darlings.
“My hands were trembling when I took the first puppy out of the cage.
“He kept licking my hands, and unbeknown to him I could easily have been a dog meat eater.”
Ms Chen called on the Yulin officials to follow the central government’s message and halt the trade.
She urged: “Like the Chinese government said, these puppies are companions not livestock, and cities like Yulin should put those words into practice and end this shameful dog meat trade.”
Speaking following the ban on dog meat earlier this year a spokeswoman for HSI Wendy Higgins issued a warning.
She said that if Yulin festival goes ahead “It will appear to be in public defiance of the Ministry of Agriculture’s words”.