June 29, 2009

Activists Save 300 Cats In Shanghai From Being Eaten

A group of animal activists in Shanghai reportedly rescued 300 cats from a dealer who was planning to sell the allegedly stolen pets to restaurants in southern China, AFP reported.

Lai Xiaoyu, 34, who was part of Friday night's rescue, told AFP the activists received a tip-off from a cat lover saying 22 bamboo cages full of cats in a freight yard where to be shipped to Guangdong province.

He said that while many of the cats have been returned to their owners, at least three had died and some had broken legs.

Lai noted that the animals had clearly been abused, as they were squeezed into small cages, some of which contained more than 20 cats.

"Two of these cats had been dead for a while when we found them," he added.

He said the cats were going to be delivered to Guangdong to go into a local soup called 'Tiger vs. Dragon' which is made with snake and cat.

The Shanghai Daily newspaper reported that some restaurants pay about $7.31 a cat.

Lai also reported that more than 50 pet owners came looking for their lost cats on Friday night after the activists sent out a message on an Internet forum.

Animal lovers adopted some cats and others were released in areas where volunteers leave food for strays.

The newspaper said police detained Yang Baoguo, the cat dealer, after he battled dozens of animal lovers who descended on the freight yard to break his cages.

However, the report said that since animal protection laws are non-existent in China, the dealer was released after a few hours without charge.

Police officer Ma Yong was quoted as saying: "There is no law in China saying cats cannot be eaten. Cats are not a protected animal."

The report said Yang, who has traded cats for a decade, bought the animals from so-called hunters who trapped the cats in residential areas at night.

The paper reported that local police were unable to charge him with possessing stolen property because, unlike dogs, a license is not required for owning a cat in Shanghai, making ownership impossible to prove.

Chinese media said that eating cat meat is a tradition in many parts of China, especially in southern regions, where some restaurants specialize in preparing the dishes.