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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Stray Cats Are Rounded Up in Shanghai, Butchered, and Sold as Mutton in Restaurants and on the Street


The rumors are persistent and the jokes never cease. Wherever there is a Chinese restaurant in America there are always allegations that it is adding cat meat to its entrees. While it is virtually impossible to establish the veracity of such claims, it is an established fact that as many as four million cats are raised for slaughter every year in China. As horrific as this may be, it constitutes a mere twenty-five to thirty-three per cent of the total number of dogs eaten annually in the Middle Kingdom.

Traditionally, cat-eating has been confined mainly to the affluent southern province of Guangdong where it is considered to be a delicacy. It has recently however spread northward to Shanghai where the Shanghai Daily reported on January 6th that street vendors and restaurants are now passing off cat meat as mutton. (See "Some Restaurants Are Serving Cat: Animal Worker.") Alerted by numerous eyewitness reports of stray cats being abducted off the crowded streets, the Shanghai Small Animal Association (SSAA) launched a year-long undercover investigation which found that the shanghaied felines (See photo above of beautiful cat behind bars) were being sold to vendors, at the going rate of two for a penny, who in turn market their meat to restaurants and street vendors. The proof in the pudding came when DNA tests conducted on twelve pieces of lamb kebab revealed that two of them had been made from cat meat.

Unwilling to waste any part of the cats that they butcher, the felines' fur is also sold to clothing and apparel manufacturers. In fact, this trafficking in cat hides is so blatant that clothing and bags manufactured out of them are regularly peddled on China's ebay web site. (See Cat Defender post of December 15, 2005 entitled "Heather Mills Asks EU to Ban Sale of Cat and Dog Fur; Paul McCartney Calls for Boycott of Chinese Goods and Olympics.")

Li Rouhai, director of SSAA, blamed the cat-eating on the rise of the bourgeoisie. In particular, he told Reuters on January 9th that a majority of the one-hundred-thousand stray cats and dogs roaming the mean streets of Shanghai were pets whose former owners had tired of them. (See "Stray Cats Turned into 'Lamb' Kebabs.") Although cats have always been kept for rodent control, pet dogs were banned under Mao as bourgeois extravagances. Raising them for the dinner table has, however, always been legal in China; in fact, there are farms which specialize in breeding Saint Bernards solely for human consumption.

Despite its growing popularity, eating cat meat is illegal in Shanghai. Gu Zhenhua of the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration told the Shanghai Daily that this proscription was due solely to health issues rather than to moral considerations. "We have no food safety standards for cat meat because it is not supposed to be on the menu. Without food safety and quarantine checks, it's unsafe to serve cat meat," he said. After all, SARS is believed to have come from people eating civet cats in southern China.

In and around the southern city of Guangzhou, cats are bred and raised as a cash crop by farmers in the countryside. The Chinese do, however, draw the line at eating kittens, but once again this prohibition is based upon the petit fait that they consider the practice to be unlucky as opposed to being merely immoral. Consequently, these so-called cat farmers are obliged to keep their intended victims indoors tethered to nylon strings until they grow to be one-year-old. They are then sold to middlemen who cram up to twenty-five of them into two- by three-foot cages which are stacked up to twelve-feet high in the back of a truck and transported to market. (See photo above). The cats, who are forced to subsist in these cramped and squalid quarters for up to two months, are fed a once-a-day mixture of rice and animal feed. As it might be expected, their mortality rate is as high as ten per cent.

The doomed cats are then sold to live markets in Guangzhou for about $2 a pound. At the markets they are either left in their jam-packed cages, confined to cupboards, or secured in nets. When the end finally comes, it is usually in the form of knife wounds to the throat although some are bludgeoned to death, hung, electrocuted, and scalded in boiling water. (See "The Cat Meat Trade in China," Mail on Sunday, March 11, 2001.") The photographs of an unidentified woman cutting up a cat (above) and using a blowtorch on one (below) as well as the one of a bloody cat lying on the tiles (bottom of page) were taken at a live cat market in Guangzhou. At restaurants, the caged felines are often exhibited at the entrance so that diners can pick out their fare. Stir-fried cats' paws in garlic is a popular dish as is the traditional cat, chicken, and snake combo. Feline eyes and testicles are considered to be specialties of the house.

China's skyrocketing economy has produced a burgeoning middle-class which, like its counterparts in the United States and Europe, has become enthralled with owning cats and dogs as pets. For example, pet ownership grew to three-hundred-million in 2004 which constituted a twenty per cent increase over 1999. China View reported on January 22nd that expenditures on pets and related services such as boarding, grooming, training, medicine, and food are expected to grow to $750 million by 2008. While this represents a minute percentage of the $34 billion that Americans lay out on their pets, the potentiality of the Chinese pet market is likewise in the billions.

There is an old Chinese Sprichwort which maintains that the Han yan will eat "anything that flies except an airplane and anything on four legs except a table" and this undeniably includes cats and dogs. There are signs, however, that this may be changing. Usually, but not always, people do not eat the animals that they keep for companionship. While the dramatic rise in pet ownership in China portends to be a good thing, the fact that people easily tire of their cats and dogs and abandon them in the street is definitely not a positive development. Likewise, while the rise of legitimate animal rights groups, such as SSAA, is a step in the right direction, the corresponding upsurge in unscrupulous individuals who masquerade as defenders of animals only to turn around and peddle them to restaurants and clothing manufacturers is to be deplored.

Dishonest and inhumane pet shop proprietors are a problem in China as they are in the United States and elsewhere. Carol Wolfson of Second Chance Animal Aid in Shanghai told Reuters on January 27th that some pet vendors pump sick animals full of antibiotics so as to keep them alive just long enough in order to sell them; the animals then die a few days or weeks later. (See "China Pets Face Bleak Start to Year of the Dog.") Also, shelters across China are bracing for a big influx of canines expected to be abandoned by disgruntled owners who have received them as gifts for the upcoming Year of the Dog.

Throughout its long and illustrious history, China's record on animal rights has been abysmal. Although Americans do not eat cats and dogs, most of them do not have any qualms about exterminating seventeen million of them at shelters each year. Diabolical animal rights groups such as the American Bird Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, PETA, National Wildlife, and National Geographic would gladly exterminate seventy million feral cats if they could get away with doing it. Americans likewise genetically alter, breed, torture, and slaughter billions of cows, horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other animals each year for food without an iota of regret. The worldly Chinese would therefore argue that there is not any difference between killing and eating a cat than there is in killing and eating a cow.

Despite Westerners' blatant hypocrisy, companion animals such as cats and dogs should not be eaten. As the ideographs on a billboard in Beijing (See photo directly above) proclaim: "Dogs and cats are humans' best friends -- they need our love and respect."

Photos: Asian Animal Protection Network (Guangzhou market) and Animals Asia Foundation (cat behind bars, truckload of cats, and billboard).