Animal rights activists are calling for the end to an annual dog meat festival in South China blamed for tarnishing the country's reputation internationally.
The Litchi and Dog Meat Festival in Yulin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, is usually held in June, but has met increased opposition in recent years amid concerns over canine cruelty and unhygienic food handling practices.
Activists say that they will continue to press for the festival to be banned and for legislation outlawing the slaughtering of dogs and cats for meat in China to be outlawed.
"The Yulin authorities need to adopt more proactive and decisive steps to crack down on an industry that kills dogs acquired illegally and sells their meat in breach of the state's food safety regulations," said Qin Xiaona, founder and director of Capital Animal Welfare Association.
According to Humane Society International, around 10-20 million dogs are killed every year across China for human consumption, predominantly in the south and northeast.
Qin claims that more than 80 per cent of these are stolen pets, according to her association's research.
Peter Li, China policy specialist of Humane Society International, said the Yulin festival has reduced in size in recent years as the authorities in Yulin are under pressure from both domestic and international protest.
"The peak of dog slaughter was in 2012 or 2013 when more than 10,000 dogs were killed in three days. The number dropped to 2,000 in 2015," said Li.
In 2014, the Yulin authorities realised that endorsing the festival was a bad idea and in May 2014, they issued an internal warning to all government employees and families not to attend the dog meat restaurants.
"The Yulin authorities distanced themselves from the festival, saying it was a totally private business event, and shut down one live dog market and two dog slaughter operations in the city," according to Li.
"This led to a drastic reduction in the number of dogs slaughtered in 2014," he added.
Yu Hongmei, director of the VShine Animal Protection Association, said China needs to follow the example of other developed nations that have banned human consumption of dog and cat meat.