Stalls at a livestock market in southern China were shut down for selling hundreds of cats and dogs after a pet owner traced a missing cat there.
The Pengjiang district government in Jiangmen, in Guangdong province, shut down the stalls at the Yuanhui Livestock Trade Market after receiving reports from animal-cruelty activists that stolen cats were being sold.
The authorities raided the market, seizing 235 cats, which were later given health checks by the city’s animal disease prevention and control centre.
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“To put the cats in better care, we have negotiated with the volunteers (animal cruelty activists) to transfer the cats to a professional organisation,” the government announced on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, on Tuesday.
“At the same time, our market supervising department is organising a check on all markets in the city,” the notice read.
No information was released about the fate of the dogs removed from the market during the raid.
The authorities were tipped off after a cat owner in Shanghai realised their pet had gone missing, animal activist Zhang Man told The Beijing News.
The owner used GPS technology to track the cat and located it 1,500 kilometres away at the Guangdong market. The market began operations in September with a licence to sell livestock including chickens and ducks.
The following day the activists, Liu Ling and Chen Yu, arrived at the market to investigate, followed by government officials later that day.
Chen found five cages in one shop, with about 300 cats and dogs, he told the newspaper.
He said a heavy stench pervaded the shop, where they also found tools commonly used to slaughter animals. Some cats were found still wearing collars.
The shop’s owner was not present at the time of the raid.
Jiangmen police told The Beijing News that investigations were continuing but they could not yet prove the animals were going to be slaughtered and sold as animal meat.
Last year, China’s Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs posted on its website that a majority of the population disagreed with labelling dogs as livestock that could be slaughtered for the dog meat trade in China. The ministry instead called dogs a “special companion animal”.
In May, the southern city of Shenzhen became the first in China to ban the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat.
It came after the Covid-19 outbreak was linked to wildlife meat, prompting Chinese authorities to ban the trade - and consumption – of wild animals.
A draft “white list” of animals allowed to be raised for meat to be consumed included pigs, cattle, goats, donkeys, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, and quail. Dogs and cats were excluded.
But with no unified national ban in place, the practice of eating dog and cat meat continues, say animal activists, who have called for legislation to end animal cruelty.
Most of the animals slaughtered and sold for meat are stolen from pet owners or taken as strays and are poisoned with darts fired by the snatchers, they said.
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