BEIJING (AP) - A southern Chinese province must stop the "shameful" and "cruelslaughter" of cats for food, a group of more than 40 animal loversin Beijing said Thursday as they unfurled banners in a tearfulprotest.
Thousands of cats across the country have been caught in thepast week by traders and transported to Guangdong province to bekilled for food, said the protesters gathered at the Guangdonggovernment's office in Beijing.
"We are very angry because the cats are being skinned and thencooked alive. We must make them correct this uncivilized behavior,"said Wang Hongyao, who represented the group in submitting a letterto the Guangdong office.
The protesters urged the provincial government to crack down oncat traders and restaurants that serve cat meat, although no lawsays it is illegal to eat cats. It has long been common for catsand dogs to be eaten in some parts of China and in some other Asiancountries.
The demonstrators held up banners saying "Cooking cats alive!Shame on Guangdong!" and "Resolutely oppose cruel slaughter" asthey met with a representative of the Guangdong office.
Calls to the Guangdong provincial office in Beijing rangunanswered, while the government news office in the provincerefused to comment.
The protest was apparently in response to Chinese media reportsin recent days that carried pictures of furry felines peering outthrough bamboo crates and metal cages, apparently en route toGuangzhou, Guangdong's capital. Other pictures show cats beingskinned in restaurant kitchens.
About 5,000 cats were sent from Nanjing to Guangzhou, while catsfrom Shanghai, Hangzhou and other places were also being roundedup, the Chengdu Business Daily reported last week. The paper saidpeople in Guangdong eat 10,000 cats a day.
No reason was given for the increased media coverage, or ifthere has been an increase in cat meat consumption.
Many of the protesters in Beijing were retirees who said theyhave been caring for strays cats. The protesters said they believedthat some street cats in Beijing, "especially the fat ones," havedisappeared and were likely nabbed by cat meat dealers.
"These cats, they are like our children," said Cui Qingzhen, a56-year-old woman who said she has been feeding street cats for sixyears. "We can't let these people do this to them."
The demonstrators also noted that a virus that causes severeacute respiratory syndrome, SARS, is suspected to have been spreadto humans by civet cats, mongoose-like animals considered adelicacy in southern China.
SARS was first reported in Guangdong in November 2002 and killed774 people worldwide before subsiding in July 2003. In 2004,Guangdong banned the raising, selling, killing and eating of civetcats.
"Haven't they learned from SARS that some animals just shouldn'tbe eaten by humans?" Cui said. "Ask the Guangdong people: What elsemust they eat?"
Associated Press researcher Xi Yue contributed to thereport.
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