China’s annual Yulin festival, in which thousands of dogs and cats will be murdered and eaten, has begun despite widespread international condemnation.
An estimated 10,000 dogs and cats are expected to be used for meat during the 10 days of the festival, which takes place at Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in the south-east of the country.
Campaigners say the practice is cruel and a petition has amassed 2.5 million signatures calling for it to be banned, but local government officials say it is organised by private businesses and they are unable to prevent it.
Vendors of the dog meat say the animals are killed in a humane way, but those who oppose the event say dogs are caged with other animals and are either skinned alive or bludgeoned to death in public before being turned into meat and sold on the street.
There have been reports of seeing caged dogs wearing collars, suggested they might be stolen pets.
A tradition of eating dog meat dates back some 500 years in China, South Korea and other countries, where many believe it wards off the heat in summer months.
However the Yulin festival, celebrated during the summer solstice, is a relatively new one, beginning only in recent years.