Cat burglars who stole 150 felines for meat arrested in China

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Many of the cats found to be emaciated and crying out in China’s Shandong province (Vshine)
Many of the cats found to be emaciated and crying out in China’s Shandong province (Vshine)

Members of a gang of cat thieves in China have been arrested for stealing 150 felines by using sparrows so they could be sold for meat.

A total of 148 cats stuffed inside seven cages, alongside 31 sparrows, were recovered by police officials from Shandong province’s Jinan city, said global animal rights body Humane Society International (HSI), citing Chinese animal protection group VShine.

Two kittens were born from the captured cats after the rescue operation was over, officials said.

Many of the cats – captured so they could be sent to slaughterhouses later – were found to be emaciated and crying out, animal protection group officials said.

The gang’s targets for the meat trade were community-fed cats and local pets who are well fed and looked after, and unlikely to be scavenging for food.

Mopeds used by the gang with cages installed for collecting captured cats were also found by Jinan Zhuang Qiu district police officials.

Officials added that the culprits were catching cats with the help of flapping and chirping sparrows inside a wire bag within a remote controlled trap.

150 cats packed in seven cages rescued in China (VShine/Humane Society International)
150 cats packed in seven cages rescued in China (VShine/Humane Society International)

“We had been tracking this gang of cat thieves and traders for a while and finally found the place they stored all the cats they stole from the streets. These poor animals were tightly crammed together in rusty cages waiting to be shipped off to south China to be killed for meat,” said Ziyang Huang, a member of Vshine.

Mr Ziyang added that the use of dozens of live sparrows to capture the cats was surprising as it exhibited the extent to which trade for cats has reached.

“These cat thieves were using quite sophisticated techniques to catch cats for the meat trade – baiting traps with sparrows, using remote controlled electronic devices to close the cages after catching a cat, and moving around the city on motorcycles to transport cats to the holding depot,” said Dr Peter Li, HSI China policy specialist.

He added that the authorities do not know for how long the cats had been caged without food or water amid debilitating hot weather in the country.

The cats would have been driven for miles across China to be killed in markets and slaughterhouses in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces in southwest China, where the consumption of cat meat has been dwindling, Dr Li pointed out.

These two provinces have been the two main areas in the country where cat meat is consumed. The rest of the mainland does not observe cat meat as a part of its food culture.

Officials have now sent the rescued cats to Jinan activists and local shelter groups, while the 29 sparrows who survived the meat trade bid were released back into the wild.

China does not have animal protection legislation that would enable the gang to be prosecuted for cruelty against the cats but Chinese law prohibits the possession of sparrows – a protected species in the country.

The accused individuals may also be charged with violating laws against property theft as at least two local Jinan residents identified their stolen cats from the rescued lot.