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More on China's cat-meat controversy

December 23, 2008 |  6:13 pm

Cats rescued from an awful fate in China We told you yesterday about the animal activists in China who are protesting the use of cat meat in restaurants in the country's Guangdong province. 

The outcry follows Chinese media reports showing cats (like those pictured here -- although these guys, for the record, were rescued by activists) being transported to Guangdong restaurants, or being skinned in restaurant kitchens.

Times staff writer Barbara Demick has a unique perspective on the situation -- she's stationed in China and filed a report from Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong. 

Demick's experience started in a Guangzhou shop:

The gray tabby cat with hazel eyes and a white nose scrunched at the bottom of a stack of metal cages filled with rabbits, quail, pigeons and ducks, across the aisle from the buckets of turtles and scorpions in a narrow shop with as many live animals as a petting zoo.

If it was male or female, young or old, nobody seemed to know or care. All that mattered was its weight, 6 1/2 pounds.

After a few quick calculations, the shopkeeper offered to sell the cat for $1.32 per pound, about $9.

"We'll cut it up right here in back for you," the shopkeeper suggested, gesturing toward a bloodstained room.

Conversations like this happen often in Guangzhou, says Demick. Guangdong province (formerly known as Canton) is well-known for its -- to put it mildly -- exotic cuisine.  From Demick's story:

 

Dog is eaten in many parts of China, but only in Guangdong do people eat cat. It is rare to see a stray wandering the streets. Many cats served for supper here are shipped down from the north.
 
The Small Animal Protection Assn. says one Guangzhou-based business captures up to 10,000 cats per day from different parts of China. The cat snatchers are typically formerly unemployed people who use large fishing nets and are paid $1.50 per cat.

Unleashed readers will be pleased to know that Demick did indeed purchase the tabby cat offered her by a Guangdong butcher (it set her back $9, not counting the cost of the cage).  She released it near a vacant lot where, she was told, mice roam and a cat is needed.

That's one cat saved -- and sadly, a whole lot more to go.

Read Demick's full story here.

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: EyePress/Associated Press

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