Chinese animal activists flocked to Yulin, Guangxi province, to save the lives of hundreds of dogs before the local dog meat festival began on Friday. More than 20 activists from various cities in China, most of them Buddhists, spent more than 100,000 yuan (around HK$126,000), most donated by animal lovers, to buy and save around 400 dogs from the local markets.The activists have re-settled these dogs on a farm in Shangrao, Jiangxi province. “This year most of the dogs are females. They are pregnant. It’s so cruel,” said Du Yufeng, 55, an activist from an animal protection association based in China’s Sichuan province. She also campaigned in Yulin at the same time last year. An animal lover, Du founded the group after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, when many dogs had to be killed for reasons of public sanitation, she said. “These dogs live in a very poor conditions [in the market]. They don’t have water to drink and some of them died soon after we saved them,’’ said Hong Bin, 40, a Buddhist artist who joined the dog rescue. The annual dog meat festival was held this year despite strong opposition and criticism from animal rights activists. More than 10,000 dogs are estimated to be killed each year during the festival, but one local resident told chnwest.com.cn , a mainland news portal, the actual number could be higher. Eating dog meat with lychees on the Summer Solstice, the longest day in a year, is a tradition in Yulin. But the local culture has been regarded as “uncivilised and cruel” by many animal activists in recent years. Whose responsibility? About two weeks before the Yulin dog meat festival, Du and other activists arrived in the city, setting up stalls and handing out leaflets at local dog markets. They even petitioned the local government against the festival and called for more government regulations. “We sent letters of complaint and petition letters to different departments of the local government. I went there five times. But each time the officials had excuses to avoid meeting me,” said Du. “The Industry and Commerce Department, the Food Safety Department and police, just tried to avoid the issue and said it was each other’s responsibility,” said Hong. The Yulin government claimed that officials were discussing it, according to the People's Daily newspaper. There are several industries behind the festival, such as the tourism industry, and the government doesn’t want to hurt the local economy and ban the festival, said Mo Yingran, an animal activist who helped to bring the Yulin dog meat festival into the media spotlight in 2011. The health and hygiene standards of dog meat consumption and preparation is also a concern for many, particularly as a number of food scandals have occurred in China. “The dog meat is unhealthy and unsanitary. You can tell from their dark tongues. They have been poisoned. Most of them are abducted and taken to the market,” said Du.