China arrests burglar group who stole 150 cats for feline meat

Tuesday, 21/03/2023, 11:21 (GMT+7)

A gang of cat burglars in China have been arrested after stealing 150 felines by using sparrows. They sold the cat for meat.

A total of 148 cats held inside 7 cages, with 31 sparrows, were recovered by police officials in Shandong province’s Jinan city, according to global animal rights body Humane Society International (HSI), citing VShine - a Chinese animal protection group.

Additionally, 2 kittens were born from the captured cats following the success of  the rescue operation, officials said.

China arrests burglar group who stole 150 cats for feline meat 1
Image credits: Vshine

Many of the captured cats - waiting to be sent to slaughterhouses later - were found to be emaciated and crying out, officials shared.

For the meat trade, the thieves targeted community-fed cats and local pets which are well raised and looked after, and unlikely to be scavenging for food.

Police officials of Jinan Zhuang Qiu district also found mopeds with cages installed - which were used by the gang for collecting cats.

They added that the burglars caught cats with the help of flapping and chirping sparrows, which they stored inside a wire bag placed within a remote controlled trap.

China arrests burglar group who stole 150 cats for feline meat 2
Image credits: VShine/Humane Society International

150 cats stuffed in 7 cages rescued in China

“We had been tracking this group of cat burglars and traders for a while and finally discovered the place they stored all the felines they stole from the streets. These poor cats were tightly packed together in rusty cages for their trip to south China to be slaughtered for meat,” shared Ziyang Huang, a member of Vshine.

Mr Ziyang also revealed that the use of dozens of live sparrows to bait the cats was unexpected as it exhibited the extent to which cat trade has reached.

“These burglars used such a sophisticated technique to capture cats just for the meat trade – baiting traps with sparrows, with remote controlled electronic devices to close the cages after a cat got in, and using motorcycles to transport cats across the city to the holding depot,” said HSI China policy specialist  Dr Peter Li.

He also said that the authorities do not know for how long the cats had been kept in cages without food or water amid the debilitating hot weather of China .

The animals would have been driven for miles across the country to be slaughtered in markets in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, southwest China, where people consume cat meat, Dr Li pointed out.

These 2 provinces have been the 2 main areas where cat meat consumption is high. The rest of the country does not see cat meat as a part of its food culture.

Officials have already sent the rescued cats to  local shelter groups and Jinan activists. Meanwhile, the 29 sparrows who were alive were released back into the wild.

There’s no animal protection legislation in China that would enable the thieves to be prosecuted for cruelty against the animals. However, Chinese law prohibits the possession of sparrows - a protected species.

The accused members of the gang may also be charged with violating laws against property theft as at least 2 local Jinan residents have identified their missing cats from the rescued lot.