More than 300 cats destined for restaurants in Guangdong Province were either returned to their owners or adopted by animal lovers after volunteers rescued the animals from a feline dealer over the weekend in Shanghai.
Volunteers said they found 22 bamboo cages full of cats in a freight yard on Yuanjiang Road and Longwu Road in Minhang District.
Most of the cats were taken back by their owners or by others, although three cats were found dead and some had broken legs.
The dealer sells each cat for about 50 yuan (US$7.31) to restaurants.
Five volunteers rushed to the freight yard after receiving a tip from a cat lover on Friday evening.
"The cat dealer will ship them to Guangdong," Lai Xiaoyu, one of the volunteers, said. "The cats are abused. They throw the cages onto a truck instead of loading them properly. The cats that survive will end up in soups at restaurants."
Yang Baoguo, a man who has traded cats for over a decade, said he purchased the animals from "hunters" who capture felines in residential areas at night.
The volunteers soon called police and the district's industrial and commercial authority.
Dozens of cat lovers also came to the freight yard after a tip was posted on an online bulletin board.
Volunteers discovered hundreds of empty cages at the yard, apart from the ones filled with cats. Some started to use hammers to break the locks on the cages, irritating Yang. A fight broke out between Yang and some animal-lovers, but police quickly stopped it.
Yang was taken to a police station for questioning that night, but was released within a few hours.
Ma Yong with Minhang District's Industrial and Commercial Bureau told Shanghai Television Station that it's difficult to stop such activity.
"There is no law in China saying cats cannot be eaten," Ma said. "Cats are not a protected animal."
Police are powerless to stop it as there are no animal protection laws. The dealer can not be charged with possession of stolen property as cats, unlike dogs, do not require a license in the city, thus making ownership impossible to prove.
Tao Rongfang with the Shanghai Animal Protection Association asked society to cultivate better dining habits and treat animals better.
(Shanghai Daily June 29, 2009)