Animal lovers have expressed discontent after thousands of cats were killed by a dumpster truck as a precaution against disease after Vietnamese officials intercepted a Chinese lorry which had been transferring the animals in bamboo cages to be killed for their meat.
According to local reports up to three tons of cats and kittens had been crammed into bamboo cages, stacked one above the other when the cargo came to be seized in the capital Hanoi last Tuesday on their way to being sold to restaurants.
The animals, many of them stolen pets, were smuggled from China to the Vietnamese capital where cat meat is called ‘little tiger’ and eaten as a delicacy. Some died in their cages in transit.
Things would take a turn for the worse when officials fearing disease may have traveled between the animals decided to cull the remaining cats by crushing them in their bamboo cages using a dumpster truck.
Initial images of the cats imprisoned in their bamboo cages had initially offered a chance that many of the stolen cats would be offered a second chance at life. At the time images of the animals led to a wave of offers from regional and international animal welfare groups to treat and find homes for the surviving cats.
But the hope of giving the cats a second chance at life would in fact be a short one as a decision was soon made that the animals needed to mass executed.
Le Duc Chinh, who investigated the seizure of cats for animal welfare group the Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA), said environmental officials told him all the cats had to be destroyed and buried in case they spread disease.
A waste treatment company was hired and used a dumper truck to crush the cats in their bamboo cages before burying them in a the Kieu Ky waste treatment area near the centre of Hanoi.
Offered Chinh via the UK’s dailymail: ‘The cats were buried and covered with lime because of concerns that they might spread disease in the capital,’
‘Many of the cats had died during the long trip from China.
‘I was appalled and asked them why they did this to the surviving cats, but the officials insisted they were following the law which says they should destroy animals immediately if they do not have health check certificates.’
He denied claims that some of the cats were buried alive, adding: ‘I checked with waste company Binh Minh who buried the cats. They said they killed all the cats and then they buried them.’
John Dalley, of Thailand-based Soi Dog Foundation which led attempts by the coalition to save the lives of the cats, said: ‘This is a particularly distressing case, not least because a number of organisations including ourselves offered to help.
‘We had vets on standby from Thursday throughout the weekend ready to fly from Thailand. The Vietnamese authorities quite simply refused to give any information, or respond to calls.
‘The fact that police intercepted the cats which were bound for restaurants and slaughter houses is commendable, but what followed is not acceptable in any civilised country.’
Mr Dalley added: ‘We can only hope that they did not die in vain, and the authorities will take steps to implement existing laws to end the inhumane trade in dogs, cats and wildlife that are not recognised as livestock in Vietnam.
‘The vast majority of these animals are stolen pets or illegally imported from other countries as with these cats. The dangers of spreading diseases such as rabies and cholera cannot be overstressed, even if one accepts the cruelty involved in the trade.
‘The government of Thailand has recently introduced laws banning the killing of animals for food that are not considered livestock and we hope other nations in Asia will follow their example.’
Cat meat is an illegal dish in Vietnam but restaurants serving it have boomed in popularity in Hanoi recently in part because of a crackdown on the dog meat trade.
They are particularly popular at festival times and last week’s seizure came ahead of the Tet, or New Year, festival in Vietnam later this month – the country’s biggest annual national holiday.
The lorry driver arrested over the illicit delivery of cats told police the cats originally came from China and were loaded on his vehicle in Vietnam’s north eastern Quang Ninh province after being traded.