Chinese annual dog meat festival has received a considerable opening despite being criticized by animal rights activists.

The festival has begun in Yulin, southern China, with almost 10,000 dogs and cats expected to fall prey to the custom. The animals are killed and eaten within the 10-day-festival. The tradition has been challenged by authorities from both national and international levels, but the custom still prevails. According to the BBC, the activists find the event cruel and in 2016, they launched a petition for the tradition to be banned. It was handed over to the Beijing authorities. The activists claimed to have collected 11 million signatures against the festival.

The local government advocated the launch of the festival and said that there is no formal support for the custom but private businesses take an interest in it. When the central market of the city launched the sale, there were few number of dogs. Therefore, the activists bought them to save their lives. “Dogs are man’s best, the most loyal friend. How could we eat our friends? You tell me,” animal right activist Yang Yuhua said as quoted by NBC News.

Though the activists are worried about the innocent lives of the dogs and cats at Yulin’s dog meat festival, vendors are hopeful of good business in 2016. A vendor with a surname Zhou said that there are several people around who love to eat dog meat and it’s like a habit for them. Chinese dog meat is hardly available in restaurants, though it is sold openly in the festival.

“Why won’t they (let us openly celebrate the festival)? The city government came out and told (the vendors) not to let restaurant owners sell (dog meat). The city government is always (handling this issue) this way,” a Yulin resident stated.

The dog meat festival history can be traced back to almost 500 years ago in China, South Korea, and other nations.