Police in China have successfully rescued 1,000 cats from a truck headed to a slaughterhouse, state-affiliated media reported.
According to reports from the world’s most populous nation, police also managed to disrupt part of the illegal trade that fraudulently sells cat meat as pork or lamb, raising concerns about food safety.
Acting on a tip-off from animal activists earlier this month, officers from Zhangjiagang in the eastern province of Jiangsu intercepted a vehicle being used to collect and transport the apprehended cats, as per China’s state-owned newspaper, The Paper.
Without intervention, the group was likely to be slaughtered and transported south to be used as skewers or sausages for pork and lamb, the report stated.
Since then, the police and agricultural authorities have relocated the cats to nearby shelters, The Paper reported, after thwarting a farm that stood to profit around $20,500.
The report did not specify if any individuals were arrested or if the cats were strays or pets.
The Paper reported that animal activists first noticed numerous wooden crates carrying many cats near a grave. They patrolled the streets for six days, and when the truck began transporting the cats to the slaughterhouse, they intervened and alerted the police, the report said.
Photos published by The Paper showed the rescued cats resting in large cages at the shelter.
One activist quoted by the outlet said the illegal operation could sell one pound of cat meat for nearly $4 by passing it off as lamb or pork. Each cat weighs between 4 to 5 kilograms after processing.
“Some people will do anything for profit,” said Gong Jian, an activist building a shelter for lost cats in Jiangsu, as quoted by The Paper.
Another activist, Han Jiali, who said he was involved in stopping the truck, told Chinese media it was not the first time, and he had quit a similar illegal trade before in Guangdong, southern China.