Hundreds of cats rescued from being eaten in China
Animal activists in Shanghai rescued 300 cats packed into 22 bamboo crates from a dealer who had bought the allegedly stolen pets for sale to restaurants in southern China Photo: AFP
The activists, acting on a tip-off from a cat lover, found 22 bamboo cages full of cats in a yard, from where they were to be shipped to Guangdong province,
Lai Xiaoyu, 34, who was one of those involved in Friday night's rescue, told the AFP news agency that most of the animals have been returned to their owners, but three cats died and some had broken legs.
"They had clearly been abused," he said. "They were squeezed into such small cages. Some of the cages contained more than 20 cats. Two of these cats had been dead for a while when we found them.
"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."
Restaurants pay about 50 yuan (£5) a cat, theShanghai Daily newspaper reported.
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.
Some cats were adopted by animal lovers and others were released in areas where volunteers leave food for strays.
Police detained the cat dealer, Yang Baoguo, after he fought dozens of animal lovers who descended on the freight yard to break into his cages, the newspaper said.
The dealer was released after a few hours without charge because animal protection laws are non-existent in China, the report said.
"There is no law in China saying cats cannot be eaten," police officer Ma Yong was quoted as saying. "Cats are not a protected animal."
Mr 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 report alleged.
Police could not charge him with possessing stolen property because, unlike dogs, a licence is not required for owning a cat in Shanghai, making ownership impossible to prove, the report said.
Eating cat meat is a tradition in many parts of China, especially in southern regions, where some restaurants specialise in preparing the dishes.
Cat-nappers feed Cantonese taste for pet delicacy
Activists from the Ping-An-A-Fu animal shelter raid a Nanjing cat market - Photo: MALCOLM MOORE