Yulin dog meat
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival, where up to 10,000 cats and dogs are eaten in specialist restaurants. Reuters

Thousands of cats and dogs will be killed and eaten in China to mark the summer solstice on Sunday 21 June.

The controversial Yulin Dog Meat Festival has attracted criticism and protests from animal activists around the world and government officials are said to have officially banned the annual event.

Peter Li, China specialist at animal activist group Humane Society International, told The Independent: "I saw cat and dog intestines and carcasses strung up.

"Workers were blow-torching the carcasses to make them shiny and ready for shipment to restaurants. There were some dogs still alive in wire cages, but they looked exhausted, emaciated and dirty."

But the slaughter of dogs and cats is not outlawed in China, with Yulin local government officials powerless to stop stalls from preparing the meat.

Queues were stretching outside huge 300-seat eateries such as the Yulin No. 1 Crispy Dog Meat restaurant, which sells the newly slaughtered animals to hungry customers for around £4 (€5.60) a kilogram.

The way in which the animals are killed has upset many animal rights activists. Cats and dogs are clubbed over the head and have their throats cut open before being thrown into boiling water.

"The butcher then plucks all the hair, removes all the organs and puts the dog on the grill," says Xing Hai, secretary general of the Dalian VShine Animal Protection Group.

He told the Mail Online: "You tell the chef how you want it to be cooked, they will do it... There are many ways to cook dog meat just as one would cook pork in China. For example, braised dog meat in soy sauce, dog casseroles, deep fried crispy dogs.

"There are three to four big dog meat restaurants in Yulin such as the Yulin No. 1 Crispy Dog Meat, and each of these restaurants can seat 200 to 300 customers.

"I came to Yulin last year to campaign against the festival, I feel this year the business is getting better... I just came out from the local food market and there were queues outside of dog meat restaurants."

The consumption of dog meat has a long history in China. At its height during the Han Dynasty (202 - 220 AD), dog meat was considered a delicacy.