People in Guangdong province like to have it in soup; other mainlanders prefer it barbequed on a stick with seasoning on top.\r\nBut no matter if it is sliced, diced, fried or stuffed into a sandwich, eating cat – one of the world”s most popular house pets is, for some Chinese, just plain wrong. It’s heart-breaking for pet lovers to think of their cats being cooked,” said Xue Ying, a 32-year-old owner of three kittens.
People in Guangdong province like to have it in soup; other mainlanders prefer it barbequed on a stick with seasoning on top.
But no matter if it is sliced, diced, fried or stuffed into a sandwich, eating cat – one of the world”s most popular house pets is, for some Chinese, just plain wrong.
“It”s heart-breaking for pet lovers to think of their cats being cooked,” said Xue Ying, a 32-year-old owner of three kittens.
However plenty of Chinese do not share his view; enough to sustain routine shipments of cats meat from Shanghai to southern China every few weeks.
Avoiding cat-pinchers is just one of the life-or-death battles played out by every day by Shanghai”s toms.
Business is steady for the cat truckers, who spend days on the road transporting up to 800 cats at a time to places where the meat is considered a delicacy. Bamboo boxes measuring 150cmx30cm hold up to 30 cats as they are taken on the road trip of a deathtime.
It is a ritual that has long upset cat lovers in the country. Without having Chinese law on their side, their hands are tied. China has for the past three years been developing an animal protection law, but nothing has come of these efforts.
Several weeks ago, activist Lai Xiaoyu and his friends hijacked a truck full of kittens in Shanghai, neutered the females then sent them all back into the wild. The animals were being shipped illegally as they had not received the vaccinations required by Chinese law.
Lai described their actions as a temporary band-aid to the problem.
“Half of the freed cats end up being caught again by people who place secret traps on public greens, parks and residential communities,” he said. “Then the cat-catchers will sell them to traffickers at 5 or 10 yuan a pop.
“It”s like a bad circle that goes around repeatedly,” he added. “Unless the slaughtering and eating of cats is completely forbidden, we have to go on playing this game with cat traffickers.”
Lai, who is trying to establish his own animal rights protection group, said even pets are not safe.
“Many of these cats are kept and fed by us; they are outdoor cats, but not homeless,” he said. “Some people who have lost their pets and participated in these campaigns have found their stolen cats during the raids.”
According to Zhang Yi, head of the non-profit Shanghai Small Animal Protection Association, there have always been problems with the way cat traders go about their business.
“Cat-trappers take possession of these animals illegally,” said Zhang. Many of the traders transport the animals without the legally required vaccination papers, he added.
In August, another raid by activists led to a minor traffic accident involving the police. Cat transporter Yang Baoguo, 58, demanded up to 8,000 yuan in compensation from the pro-cat volunteers.
“I am just taking part in a small business to make an honest living, which is totally legal,” he told police, with blood dripping from the tip of his nose after sparring with the cat lovers. “I purchased the cats for 5 yuan a piece. It”s fair business.”
Police said they were unable to do anything to help the volunteers in their fight, but suggested they file a report with the city”s animal inspection authorities.
A few hours later, the volunteers managed to get a warrant to legitimately confiscate the cats.
Lai said he plans raids on cat-traffickers in Shanghai about once a month.
“Last year, some of us talked to the traffickers face-to-face, and we suggested they turn to another business,” he said. “Some of us even offered them money, but it didn”t work at all – we encountered the same guys later.”
While supporting Lai and the other volunteers, Zhang wonders whether his approach is doing more harm than good.
“I understand where they are coming from and sympathize with their efforts of trying to crack down on the illegal trade of pet animals, but I suggest they try something else,” he said.
“If all they do is catching cats from traffickers and freeing them again, only to let them caught by the trappers all over again, I don”t think people are going to be willing to keep donating to this cause – and if that happens, I can”t see how they”re going to be able to sustain the practice anyway.”
Lai is happy he is at least raising awareness.
“Our efforts have called public attention to the problem,” he said. “You”ll find in other cities that people are doing the same thing. Through this, I hope we can accelerate the launch of better animal protection laws in China.”
“Besides, if we stop now, the illegal traders will only be able to get away with so much more.”