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Activists demonstrate against cat meat in China

A protester holds up pictures of a trapped cat during a December 18 demonstration in Beijing.

Animal activists are outraged over what they call the "cruel slaughter" of cats used for food in China's Guangdong province.  A group of 40+ protesters took to the streets in Beijing last week, calling for the government to intervene with cat traders (whom they allege take stray cats off the streets) and restaurants that serve cat meat. 

The protest followed recent reports in the Chinese media that showed photos (like the one above) of cats enclosed in cages, apparently en route to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong -- and of cats being skinned in restaurants.  The newspaper Chengdu Business Daily wrote that 10,000 cats are eaten per day in Guangdong.

Many of the protesters were senior citizens who care for street cats in their spare time and say they've noticed cats in their care ("...especially the fat ones," one told a reporter) disappearing as a result of the cat meat industry. 

Wang Hongyao, a representative for the protesters, told the Associated Press, "We are very angry because the cats are being skinned and then cooked alive. We must make them correct this uncivilized behavior."

Guangdong's government news office made no comment.

Read the full Associated Press story after the jump.

Protests in China over cats on the menu
Associated Press Writer

GUANGZHOU, China -- While animal lovers in Beijing protested the killing of cats for food on Thursday, a butcher in Guangdong province -- where felines are the main ingredient in a famous soup -- just shrugged her shoulders and wielded her cleaver.

"Cats have a strong flavor. Dogs taste much better, but if you really want cat meat, I can have it delivered by tomorrow," said the butcher, who gave only her surname, Huang.

It was just this attitude that outraged about 40 cat lovers who unfurled banners in a tearful protest outside the Guangdong government office in Beijing. Many were retirees who care for stray felines they said were being rounded up by dealers.

"We must make them correct this uncivilized behavior," said Wang Hongyao, who represented the group in submitting a letter urging the provincial government to crack down on traders and restaurants, although they were breaking no laws.

The protest was the latest clash between age-old traditions and the new sensibilities made possible by China's growing affluence. Pet ownership was once rare because the Communist Party condemned it as bourgeois and most people simply couldn't afford a cat or dog.

The protesters' indignation was whipped up by recent reports in Chinese newspapers about the cat meat industry. On Monday, the Southern Metropolis Daily -- a Guangdong paper famous for its exposés and aggressive reporting -- ran a story that said about 1,000 cats were transported by train to Guangdong each day.

The animals came from Nanjing, a major trading hub for cats, the newspaper said. They were brought to market by dealers on motorcycles, crammed into wooden crates and sent to Guangdong on trains. A photo showed a cat with green eyes peering from a crowded crate.

Some people in Nanjing spend their days "fishing for cats," often stealing pets, the report said.

One cat owner in Guanghzou said people are afraid to let their pets leave the house for fear they will get nabbed.

"It's never been this bad. Who knows, it might be because of the bad economy. I've heard that there are cat-nabbing syndicates from Hunan that are rounding up cats," said the man, who would only give his surname, Lai, because he feared the cat business might be run by gangsters.

Animal protection groups have occasionally ambushed truck convoys loaded with bamboo cages filled with cats bound for Guangdong. In one recent case, hundreds of cats escaped after their cages were opened, though hundreds more remained penned in the vehicle.

Lai Xiaoyu, who was involved in the attempted "rescue," said authorities couldn't stop the cat shipment because the traders said the animals were to be raised as pets.

"The police did what they could, but there's little they can do to stop or punish those traders from shipping live animals," Lai said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, issued a statement Thursday decrying the cruel treatment.

"China has no animal protection laws, and throughout the country scores of cats and dogs are bred or rounded up, crammed onto trucks and driven for days under hellish conditions to animal markets, where they are beaten to death, strangled or boiled alive," said a spokesman for the group, Michael V. McGraw.

Guangdong is home to the Cantonese people, famous for being the most adventurous eaters in China. There's a popular saying: "The Cantonese will eat anything that flies, except airplanes, and anything with legs, except a chair."

Zhu Huilian, a nutrition and food safety professor at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangdong's capital, Guangzhou, said people usually eat cat in restaurants, not at home.

"There's a famous soup called 'Dragon, Tiger and Phoenix,'" Zhu said. "It involves cooking snake, cat and chicken together. In winter more people eat cats as they believe it's extra nutritious."

The wide-ranging Cantonese culinary tastes are on display daily in Guangzhou, also known as Canton, in the Qing Ping Market. Shopkeepers sit behind cages full of writhing snakes, tubs with turtles and plastic basins with mounds of scorpions crawling over each other.

That's where the butcher, Huang, sells her meat, sliced on a blood-soaked cutting board in a stall filled with cages of chickens and rabbits.

Hanging on a hook from its head -- with its snout cut cleanly off -- was a skinned dog with a long curly tail, paws with small clumps of fur still on them and black claws. The dog's jaw bone was displayed in a metal tray beneath the carcass.

"The cat meat we sell comes from legitimate sources," said Huang, who gave only her surname because her boss doesn't allow her to speak to reporters. "It's from cat farms. The animals are raised the same way cows are."

She said cat meat sold for about $1.32 a pound, while dog meat was cheaper, at about 95 cents a pound. Chicken was the best buy at 62 cents a pound, while lamb sold for about $1.32.

Huang said customers had to order cat meat a day in advance because it doesn't sell as well as dog.

"Cat tastes a bit like lamb. I don't like it much," she said. "Young cats are tender, but the meat on the older ones is really tough. Usually old people like eating it."

Associated Press writer Gillian Wong in Beijing, researchers Xi Yue in Beijing and Ji Chen in Shanghai, and Carley Petesch in New York contributed to this report.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo by Elizabeth Dalziel / Associated Press -- A protester holds up pictures of a trapped cat during a Dec. 18 demonstration in Beijing.

Comments () | Archives (8)

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We all know that eating cat meat is wrong as they are companion animals. This is particularly the case when the slaughter is unregulated and frankly barbaric. This is a highly uncivilized practice and it is high time that the Chinese government enacted animal welfare laws in relation to domestic animals. There are no animal welfare laws in China.

Yeah, because Gob forbid that YOU PROTEST AGAINST THE COUNTLESS ATROCITIES INFLICTED ON HUMANS EVERYDAY IN CHINA!!! Of course, if you did that then you might not get cheap goods at the Wal-Mart, and we can't have that, right. Forget about the fact that many Chinese live so far below poverty that cat meat might be their only sustenance. I like cats too, but seriously, not only is there an abundant source of stray felines in this world but YOU SHOULD PICK A REAL CAUSE YOU WORTHLESS, YUPPIE SCUMBAGS! Tell you what, why don't you quit your office jobs, give all your belongings and assets to charity except for enough to buy you a plane ticket to China and go live there on nothing for a while and see how long it takes you to EAT A CAT!!! Better still, leave the Chinese alone and do something to help people in this country. No wonder the rest of the world hates America. It's full of people like you!

Thanks Corvin, you said everything I was thinking after reading this article.

"We are very angry because the cats are being skinned and then cooked alive. We must make them correct this uncivilized behavior."

Uncivilized behavior... as far as I know, preparing and cooking our food was a key building block of civilization, just because you have an unnatural obsession with a creature of a different species.

Gandi: The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Einstein: Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.

I agree with Michaell, this is barbaric. There are no animal welfare laws in China.
Chinese government should do something about animal welfare laws in relation to domestic animals. why should we feel sorry for their poverty, they put themsolvesin it, get educated, get a job and they could afford proper food.

This act of barbarianism is inhuman. God has created cat as one of the domestic pet which we can live with. They are like our friend. Even if we don't have passion for them, please do not skin them alive! It's high time for the UN to issue warning to the authority of China. Worse come to worst, sanction the awaken dragon for the crime!!!

Look, advocating for animal rights and for human rights are not mutually exclusive activities. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that people with the compassion and will to advocate on behalf of animals are probably also concerned with the treatment of people as well (PETA excluded, because PETA doesn't really care about animals, just the cult of veganism, and they certainly don't care about female humans).

Anyway, eating and cooking meat is all well and good and a part of civilization. Boiling cats alive, hunting them off the street when they are people's pets, and killing domesticized companion animals for food is pretty much the definition of UNCIVILIZED BEHAVIOR.

Idiots that think that skinning and boiling anything alive are out of their minds; If that isn't the definition of "cruel" then what would be? Cats are beautiful creatures and at least if they were "harvested" humanely then maybe more people wouuld understand even though they're often considered members of family here and bring a modicum of pleasure to the older folks who are protesting. I know that in Korea, the more an animal suffers while they're being killed the more of a delicacy they're considered so are some of you in agreement with this too? You suck and your empathathies are bankrupt or something. I actually feel sorry for you.


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