Chinese activists and police have stopped a truck crammed with 1,408 cats and dogs on a 750-mile journey to slaughterhouses for the meat trade in China.
Cruel conditions and rampant disease meant that 370 had already died on what activists call the ‘death car’ from Fucheng in northern China to Yulin in the south.
China has no animal protection laws that charities can use to prosecute traders for cruelty, but the two truck drivers were able to be detained for transporting sick animals between provinces without the proper paperwork.
Hao Da-yue of the activist group Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA), which helped rescue the animals in the town of Xiao Tao, said: ‘I have participated in many rescues of dogs and cats from the meat trade, but never before have I come across such a shocking scene.
‘This was a car of death, crammed full of desperate, scared, traumatized animals locked in with their dead and dying companions.’
Animals were cramped in appalling conditions before activists and police stopped the truck
A quarter of the animals found were already dead or died shortly after the police stopped the truck
‘This was a car of death, crammed with desperate, frightened, traumatized animals’
The ‘death truck’ was on a journey of 745 kilometers
She continued: ‘The smell of death, diarrhea and vomit was overwhelming and the sound of the animals whining and crying for our attention was just heartbreaking.
‘I saw a number of dogs and cats dying on the side of the road despite desperate attempts to help them, there was nothing to do but hold them as they died.
‘Activists worked with tears in their eyes, many clearly shocked by what they witnessed. The world needs to see how these poor dogs and cats are suffering for China’s meat trade.
“Such appalling cruelty brings shame on China and shame on the majority of Chinese people who want nothing to do with this heinous trade.”
Eating cats and dogs has become less popular in China as pet ownership has steadily increased.
The slaughter, sale and consumption of dogs is prohibited or otherwise terminated has been banned in Shenzhen and Zhuhai in mainland China, and many other Asian countries have introduced laws banning the practice in recent years.
A poll of 378 million people following the 2020 ban in China found that 75% of Chinese citizens agree with the ruling.
The ‘Death Truck’ was intercepted on October 1 in Xian Tao city in central China’s Hubei province, halfway along the planned 745 mile (1,200 km) trip from Fucheng in the north to Yulin in the south.
After police stopped the truck, rescuers from local animal groups were met by Beijing-based dog meat campaign specialists from the Capital Animal Welfare Association, who were able to gently offload the traumatized animals.
They found animals suffering from open wounds, broken bones, respiratory diseases and severe dehydration, as well as many that had not survived the journey.
The activists administered emergency treatment at the roadside, temporarily moving the dogs to a nearby school and the cats to a team to be sent on to shelters.
The police were only able to legally stop the lorry due to health and safety concerns
Activists will work to treat the surviving pets and strays before they can be sent to shelters
While its popularity is waning, four million cats a year may be killed for a minority of cat eaters
Many sick and suffering animals died on the side of the road as activists attempted emergency treatment
Hao Da-yue attended the scene and estimates that most of the 718 dogs were likely stolen pets, and the 690 cats were likely snatched from the streets. The surviving animals are now cared for by staff at local shelters who provide life-saving treatment.
They fear that the animals have endured such an ordeal that more may still succumb to their injuries and illness. HSI provides emergency funds to help some of the shelters care for the animals.
The two truck drivers have been detained by police and reported to Xian Tao officials, and the trader who contracted them and accumulated the animals now faces investigation by the Agriculture Bureau and may face charges of transporting diseased animals across provincial borders without legally required quarantine papers.
In recent years, support for banning cat and dog consumption has increased with pet ownership
The surviving animals are cared for by staff at local shelters and receive treatment
75% of Chinese citizens supported the recent bans in Shenzhen and Zhuhai back in 2020
Dr. Peter Li, Humane Society International’s China policy specialist, said: ‘I would like to pay tribute to the commitment and bravery of the Chinese animal activists who are working so hard to help animals trapped in the dog and cat meat trade.
“Having been to dog and cat slaughterhouses and meat markets myself, I know firsthand how traumatizing it is to see this scale of animal abuse, and yet they are committed to exposing this cruelty in the hope of ending the trade for good.
‘Most people in China do not support this trade and it does not reflect modern Chinese society, but without robust animal protection laws in place, we will continue to see this terrible cruelty.’