Lifestyle Pets Humane Society Saves Dozens of Animals from China's Yulin Dog Meat Festival Human Society International was able to negotiate with a Yulin slaughter house to release all of their animals just days before the dog meat festival By Kelli Bender Published on June 16, 2016 09:34PM EDT Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Mai Zi/CAPP Twenty-nine dogs and 5 cats have a second chance thanks to the work of Humane Society International. The group rescued the animals from a slaughterhouse in Yulin, China, just days before the city’s annual dog meat festival on June 21. Each year hundreds of dogs are stolen, kept in tiny cages and then slaughtered for consumption for the festival, a tradition numerous celebrities have spoke out against. The cats and dogs recently saved by HSI were found tightly packed in soiled cages. HSI officials and Chinese animal activists were able to negotiate with the slaughterhouse to release the animals, some of which wore collars, suggesting they are stolen pets. Peter Li, HSI’s China policy specialist, led the rescue operation and said in a statement, “The police presence is heavy in Yulin right now, and the atmosphere is very tense, so this was not an easy rescue. But we were determined to save animals from their gruesome fate at Yulin, and it was such a relief to leave the slaughterhouse cages empty for one day at least. The dogs and cats were clearly afraid, especially the older dogs who looked very fearful. But once they realized we weren’t there to hurt them, but in fact we would make their suffering stop at last, they very quickly responded with licks and wagging tails. It’s shocking to think that if we had not been there, all these animals would have been beaten to death and eaten.” Mai Zi/CAPP These 34 fortunate animals have all been transported to a shelter were they are receiving veterinary care and getting ready for adoption. HSI plans to adopt out most of the cats and dogs to pet lovers in China, but several animals may be sent to forever homes in the U.K. and the U.S. Mai Zi/CAPP This rescue operation is part of HSI’s long-running protest against the festival. Thanks to the work of HSI and other animal welfare groups, the number of dogs murdered for the festival each year has dropped drastically from 15,000 in 2010 to 3,000 in 2015. HSI also submitted a petition last week, signed by 11 million people and numerous charities, to Yulin’s government demanding an end to the city’s dog meat trade. The Yulin Dog Meat Festival was only started in 2010 as a way to boost the area’s dog meat trade. Prior to the festival, the city did not have a history of consuming dog.