A GROUP of animal activists from Bury are planning to gather outside the Chinese Consulate in Manchester tomorrow to raise awareness of the ongoing Lychee and Dog Meat Festival.

Held during the summer solstice, the festival in Yulin, China, sees attendees eat dog meat and lychees. The festival began in 2009 and spans about ten days during which thousands of dogs are reportedly consumed. The festival has drawn criticism both domestically and abroad.

Activists around the globe have alleged that the festival sees practices such as burning and boiling the dogs alive, while torture and other practices have been reported.

The group gathering in Manchester tomorrow include a group of Animal Nursing students from Bury College, along with other friends and activists.

Francesca Manning, who has helped organise the protest, said: "The attendees claim that is part of their culture but it didn't start until 2009. They also use the word festival but that suggests its a celebration when in reality it's horrendous.

"I have three dogs myself- poodles- and when I saw a picture of a poodle being pushed into a cage, that's when it hit home."

Francesca has since set up a group to raise awareness- entitled Friends United Against Animal Cruelty.

Earlier this year, China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs changed its animal classification so that dogs are no longer classed as livestock.

However, they are only guidelines and not law. But Shenzhen and Zhuhai, both in southern Guangdong province, became the first cities to ban the sale of dog meat earlier this year.

It is estimated that thousands of dogs and other animals are killed for meat at the festival each year. The current festival is due to run until June 30.

Francesca, who has appeared in Coronation Street and other shows, said her activism started when she was younger, where she would enlist the help of her uncle- legendary comedian, Bernard Manning.

She added: "I used to ring him up and ask him to sign a petition to help raise awareness of them and get it in the papers.

"The main one I was campaigning for then was for the treatment of seals, so I'd get him to sign so papers and people would pay attention."

The protest is set to begin at 10.30am tomorrow morning.

Francesca has said that people can find out more information on Humane Society International and Soi Dog.

To see Francesca's group, click here.