Chinese activists rescue more than 400 cats from Tianjin butchers

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2007:
TIANJIN, BEIJING– As many as 100 volunteers rallied by the
I Love Cats Home in Tianjin stormed a cat meat market on February
10, 2007 to rescue 444 cats, of whom 415 were taken in by the China
Small Animal Protection Association, of Beijing.
“It was a true battle,” China Small Animal Protection
Association volunteer Dan Zhang told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The Tianjing
volunteers bravely fought for the lives of the cats with the butchers
and police for more than 10 hours. Some volunteers were injured and
sent to the hospital,” one of whom was still hospitalized two days
later, rescue organization Wang Yue of the I Love Cats Home told Ng
Tze Wei of the South China Morning Post.

“The police threatened to shut their mouths,” Zhang said.
“Volunteers from the I Love Cats Home called us at midnight to ask
for our help, after they were not allowed to take the cats away.
Professor Lu Di and I kept in contact with them all night. Finally
the police agreed that the volunteers could take the cats away if
they signed an agreement with the cat butcher. ”
Organizing transportation and volunteers to take the cats to
Beijing, “We arrived in the afternoon and got back at midnight,”
Zhang recounted. “Lu Di and I stayed at the shelter until 6 a.m. to
take care of the much tortured and extremely terrified cats.
The Beijing News “said the volunteers might be sued by the
cat vendors for compensation and be prosecuted for attacking police
officers,” wrote Ng Tze Wei. “But Wang Yue said that they did not
attack the police.
“Ms. Wang said her group first learned late last month that a
shop in the wholesale market was keeping more than 400 cats in small
cages, but the police and government departments said there was
nothing they could do about it,” Ng Tze Wei continued.
“Xiao Xue, another group member,” told Ng Tze Wei that “the
carcasses of dead cats were seen dumped next to the shop last month.
The cats rescued on Saturday appeared to be another batch,” Ng Tze
Wei wrote. “A Tianjin reporter told the group that angry local
residents broke down the shop’s door” on February 9, the day before
the I Love Cats Home raid, “to retrieve lost pets they suspected had
been stolen by the vendors,” Ng Tze Wei reported.
Admitted Wang Yue, “By rescuing the cats we broke the law.
However, we cannot pursue these cat thieves under the law because we
cannot catch them in the act.”
Wang Yue hoped that the China Small Animal Protection
Association, seeking homes for the cats in Beijing, could help with
whatever legal problems might follow. She appealed for adopters to
step forward.
“The media coverage attracted much attention,” Zhang said.
“We received many calls from people who wanted to help, either to
adopt or to donate money.”
However, Zhang added, the total contributions actually
received, as of February 19, amounted to “less than $1,000
altogether.” [ANIMAL PEOPLE had already sent $500 to the aid of the
cats c/o Animal Rescue Beijing, which is now helping the China Small
Animal Protection Association to look after the cats, and will be
happy to relay readers’ donations. Checks should be made out to
ANIMAL PEOPLE, labeled “for the Chinese cats.”] “My artist friend Ai Weiwei went to the shelter with us
yesterday afternoon,” Zhang continued, “and he was shocked to see
how bad the conditions were,” with the new arrivals joining the 200
cats and 700 dogs who were already housed there. He immediately
decided to rent a place in order to adopt as many cats as possible,
as soon as possible. His wife, a painter, took four home
immediately. One was pregnant and gave birth to several lovely kit
Ai Weiwei eventually took 21 cats. Zhang and two friends
adopted 10. “Most of them are injured,” Zhang reported. “Volunteer
Ms. Wang Yin took more than 300 cats to be sterilized,” Zhang added.
The Hong Kong SPCA was sending a team of veterinarians to
assist, Ng Tze Wei said.
The Tianjin cat rescue came nearly eight months after 40
cat-lovers backed by “a large crowd including children,” according
to China Daily, stormed the newly opened Fang Company Cat Meatball
Restaurant in Shenzhen on June 17, 2006. Finding the remains of one
butchered cat, they extracted a promise from the owner to serve cats
no more.
The Shenzhen raid started when the founder of the Shenzhen
Cat Net web site, identified only as “Isobel” by China Daily,
carried a white rose to the restaurant in memory of the slaughtered
cats. Supporters followed, holding banners and distributing
handbills denouncing both eating cats and eating dogs.
Among them was Gao Haiyun, Miss Shenzhen for 2005, who
according to China Daily told restaurant customers to “stop eating
cats and dogs and become civilized.”
“It’s hopeless to realize how many cat meat and fur markets
remain in Tianjin alone,” Zhang said, “not to mention Guangdong,
the most bloody province in China, where people believe cat and dog
meat are good for their health.”
But Zhang anticipated using the Tianjin cat incident to help
promote the introduction of long awaited national animal welfare
“We’re going to exhibit the cages that the cat butcher used
to store cats and pigeons at the annual meeting,” Zhang said. “It
will be a shock to most of them.”
Agreed China Small Animals Protection Association vice
president Cai Meng, to Ng Tze Wei, “The ultimate solution to animal
protection lies in legislation,” a goal of the association ever
since it was formed in 1994.
“We cannot solely rely on empathy,” Cai Meng said.
Added Ng Tze Wei, “Chinese People’s Political Consultative
Conference representative Hu Qiheng, who accompanied the association
to collect the cats from Tianjin, has drafted a petition to be
presented when the conference convenes its annual session in March.”

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