British animal welfare investigators have uncovered new evidence exposing China’s trade in stolen pets.
Animal Equality and Last Chance for Animals visited the country’s notorious meat markets and abattoirs where they witnessed dogs, cats and rabbits kept in appalling conditions before being clubbed to death.
Working undercover with Chinese investigators they secretly filmed puppies a few weeks old crushed into wire cages at a breeding farm in Shandong.
CCTV pictures the group obtained reveal how dog thieves snatch pets off the streets and steal them from owner’s homes.
They also uncovered video of cats being made into Dragon, Tiger and Phoenix stew which “fortifies the body,” according to tradition.
Over three weeks investigators put themselves at huge risk posing as meat traders to covertly film the route animals take from breeding farms to restaurants via China’s back-street abattoirs.
Breeders at a farm in Jining allegedly told investigators that if necessary they would “hunt the streets” to secure enough dogs for them.
Gangs drive around in broad daylight looking for dogs to snatch. It takes a few seconds to snare an animal and drag it into their van.
Many puppies investigators were offered reportedly still wore collars, suggesting they were once family pets. Once fattened, they are sold to abattoirs for around 200 yuan (£20) each.
Campaigners also travelled to China’s Nanhai market in Guangdong province where dogs, cats and rabbits are traded and sold to local restaurants after journeys of hundreds of miles in cramped cages.
Many of the cats are captured by gangs who set traps in public parks and residential areas where they are likely to be kept as pets.
Investigators entered the market at night and secretly filmed cages being unloaded from provinces all over China.
Though the cages were being thrown to the ground, investigators noted none of the dogs barked, leading them to suspect their vocal chords had been removed.
Despite campaigners’ outrage, eating dogs and cats remains a delicacy in China where it is said to “warm the blood” and provide “vitality”.
The groups are working with local welfare groups like China’s Guangzhou Volunteer Centre to campaign for an end to China’s trade in dog meat.
Animal Equality says more than 10 million dogs are killed every year in China, although other estimates put the number at closer to 16 million.
According to Chinese media, a 2011 study by Guo Peng, a professor at the School of Philosophy and Social Development of Shandong University, found 88% of households in one rural village suspected their dogs had been taken.
The group intends lobbying Chinese embassies around the world to raise awareness about what they say is international outrage at China’s lack of animal welfare laws.