Animal activists in Guangdong have intercepted a truck containing over 1,000 dogs prior to the start of the infamous Yulin dog meat festival, according to Hong Kong media.

The festival, which sees thousands of animals killed every year for food, is set to begin on Wednesday, the summer solstice. The festival began in 2010 as a way to boost sales, according to mainland paper Southern Metropolis Daily.

In response to previous claims from US-based NGO The Duo Duo project that the local government was banning the sale of dog meat at this year’s festival, the Yulin publicity department told The Beijing News that it has issued no such ban.

People eating at a previous Yulin Dog Meat Festival. File photo: Animals Asia via flickr.

State tabloid The Global Times reported that the festival is being held in a subdued manner as the local government seeks to distance itself from the event.

On Monday, two activists tailed a truck containing over a thousand dogs from Hengyang city in Hunan province, a volunteer who was involved told Apple Daily. Activists called on others using the WeChat messaging app to help rescue the canines as the truck headed south to Guangdong province.

When the truck arrived at a gas station in Guangzhou at around 4pm, volunteers blocked it with their own vehicles, and asked the driver to produce documentation of the animals’ vaccinations, along with proof that they were being transported legally.

The driver was unable to produce the documents, and the confrontation escalated as the driver called on around 30 other drivers to surround the volunteers and try to get them to leave.

Hong Kong media cited information provided by activists on WeChat, as saying that there were around 1,300 dogs and around 100 cats in chicken cages on the truck. The cargo is suspected to include stolen pets, strays and sick dogs.

Dogs in cages on the truck. Photos: Weibo.

“Many of the dogs died – they were stacked on top of each other in layers, and the ones on the bottom have basically all died. Also, some of the dogs were giving birth, some of them are bruised, and some even had broken legs – it’s heartbreaking,” a volunteer named Yuyu told Apple Daily.

Activists told Hong Kong media they suspected that the animals were headed for the Yulin dog festival to the west of Guangdong via illegal slaughterhouses in the neighbouring province.

Activists unloading dogs from the truck.

Police were called to the scene of the confrontation, and around 500 volunteers also arrived to support the activists. Finally, after a night of negotiations, the activists were allowed to bring the animals to a vacant lot in Guangzhou’s Liwan district on Tuesday.

At the vacant lot, the activists worked to unload the animals, wash them and feed them, according to HK01. Judging from photos taken at the scene, around 20 dogs had died, the outlet said.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.