Dozens of dogs have been clubbed, beaten and stabbed to death in a Chinese village as part of a government-backed "slaughter" following concerns over rabies.

The campaign has so far seen 70 dogs from Shuanglong in the central Hunan province being killed – and officials are now urging authorities to supply them with firearms so they can step up the campaign.

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Village officials began culling the local unregistered dogs last week after they became concerned of a possible rabies outbreak when several people were bitten by "mad dogs".

"We have no ways to confirm how many dogs having been infected with rabies, so we decided to kill all the dogs within three kilometres from the centre of the ‘epidemic’," official Zhong Yi  told the Xiaoxiang Morning Post newspaper.

There were no confirmed cases of rabies in the reports. However, some officials noted that there is an incubation period for the disease, which can be fatal to humans if they are bitten by an infected animal.

Dogs on sale at a market in Yulin, in southern China's Guangxi provinceCredit:

Local officers said they had employed any means necessary to carry out the cull, which has so far seen 60 per cent of the village’s dogs killed

"We don’t have any choice," Wu Huachu, a village official told The Beijing News.

"If we see a dog we beat it. Or we stab the dog and let it bleed to death. Then we burn the bodies with gas and bury them."

There has been an uproar online over what state media described as a "government-ordered slaughter".

Many people have expressed horror at the brutal methods being deployed, while others highlighted how some pets were alleged to have been targeted.

One Chinese report noted how a home surveillance camera picked up footage of a group of uniformed men entering a resident’s gated yard. 

They then began "beating the family’s dog before dragging it away by the neck", the report continued. 

A comment on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, said: "The government doesn’t even have the concept of people having personal belongings, and so they randomly broke into someone’s house. So pathetic."

Another comment said: "Isn’t this whole thing a bit extreme."

China has the second highest number of reported rabies cases in the world, with over 2,000 deaths on average reported each year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Beijing has vowed to wipe out the disease by 2025.

A statement posted online by the local government in Shuanglong said the dogs had been destroyed by using "methods which are in accordance with regulations and procedures".

"We ask for help from the police for those dogs which are not easy to kill," the statement added.