UK
22/06/2015 14:44 BST | Updated 22/06/2015 14:59 BST

Yulin Dog Meat Festival Campaigner, Yang Xiaoyun, Travels 1,500 Miles To Save 100 Dogs From Slaughter

One Chinese animal rights activist has gone the extra mile - more than 1,500 of them to be exact - to save the lives of terrified dogs and cats destined for a horrific slaughter during the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival.

Yang Xiaoyun, 65, travelled the enormous distance from her home in the city of Tianjin to rescue as many dogs as possible from the controversial festival in South China, Agence France-Presse reported.

The retired school teacher has been rescuing stay animals since 1995 and has hundreds in her care since she established Common Home For All.

Yang's shelter is estimated to house about 1,500 dogs and 200 cats, whom she fondly refers to as her "children", the India Times reported.

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Yang Xiaoyun already cares for more than 1,000 dogs and hundreds of cats in her home in Tianjin

On Saturday, Yang reportedly travelled down to the southern city of Yulin with more than $1,000 to save the lives of about 100 dogs awaiting slaughter.

Nearly 4 million people have signed a petition calling for an end to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.

Reports said that Yang plans to rehouse the rescued animals at her home about 1,5000 miles away in Tianjin.

Pictures show the campaigner trawling Yulin's streets, bartering with dog meat sellers in a bid to save the lives of as many animals as possible before the close of the festival on Monday.

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Yang Xiaoyun at Yulin Dog Meat Festival
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Although dog meat has historically been sold in China, the Yulin festival is not an ancient tradition and was invented in 2010 by dog meat traders trying to drum up business, says Peter Li, a China policy specialist at Humane Society International.

It is estimated that about 10,000 dogs, many of whom are reportedly stolen pets still wearing their collars, are killed each year for the Yulin festival, which coincides with the summer solstice.

The city's government has reportedly tried to distance itself from the event, citing it as a "commercial" event not run by the local government.

The festival has received a growing amount of condemnation, both internationally and within China, as animal rights groups work together to end the event.

Humane Society International's Adam Parascandola has witnessed firsthand the distressing live dog and cat markets where animals are squeezed into tiny cages to be bought and killed for their meat.

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Puppies in cages at the live dog market in Yulin

Adam said: "As well as the obvious animal cruelty aspect of this horrific festival, they (animal rights protestors) are also raising very serious public health concerns about the transmission of rabies and other diseases in this completely unregulated and often criminal trade.

"Theft of pet dogs and cats plays a huge role in sustaining this industry.

"It's been a real challenge to be here in Yulin over the past few days. I've witnessed truly heartbreaking animal suffering of dogs and cats that I will never forget, but at the same time I've also had the honour of working alongside really inspiring Chinese activists and ordinary animal-loving citizens who care deeply about ending this horrific trade.

"They give me hope for the future, and they in turn are feeling hopeful because they finally feel that their voices are being heard around the world. I sincerely hope that the Chinese authorities listen too, and that this will be the last we see of this brutal festival."

A host of celebrities have spoken out about the festival. Most vocal, perhaps, has been British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, who has relentlessly campaigned to end to the Yulin event.

Most recently he thanked all his followers who have opposed the festival:

X Factor boss and self-proclaimed animal lover, Simon Cowell, is one of the most recent celebrities to speak out against the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.

On Monday, the 55-year-old year old tweeted:

He then urged his followers to sign the petition against the "disgraceful animal torture:

SEE ALSO:

Ricky Gervais Joins Fight Against China's Yulin Dog Meat Festival

Exposing China's Yulin Dog Meat 'Festival' Cruelty

Yulin Dog Meat Torture Festival Will Go Ahead Despite Celebrity Pleas