ANIMAL rights activists in China rescued up to 1,000 dogs and cats on the eve of the annual Yulin dog meat festival, in what has been described as one of the country’s biggest rescue efforts to date.
Animal protection group Humane Society International (HSI) said the dogs and cats were rescued in Guangzhou city from a truck headed to slaughterhouses in southern Guangdong province.
More than 100 activists who participated in the rescue found the animals wailing out of pain and despair, stuffed into tiny cages and hardly able to move.
Many of the animals, the group said, were seen to be sick and starving, with disease spreading rapidly in the tightly confined cages.
The group said the activists had negotiated with the truck driver to release the animals and also urged local police to enforce the nation’s animal disease control and prevention laws.
The activists said they provided life-saving aid and water to the exhausted and dehydrated animals.
The truck reportedly originated in southern Gansu province, an area which the group says has long been associated with rampant dog theft. The truck had apparently travelled 1,948km before reaching Guangzhou.
The activists had claimed the truck driver did not have health certificates for the dogs, which Chinese animal transport regulations require for each animal.
The various breeds of the dogs on the truck, according to HSI, also suggested they had come from suspicious sources as many surviving dogs displayed behaviours common in companion animals.
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HSI’s China policy specialist Dr Peter Li described the rescue as an “audacious” one as it was the single largest dog and cat truck rescue the group has seen so far in China.
“We applaud the brave work of the men and women animal lovers who saved the lives of these terrified animals who were headed towards a brutal slaughter,” Li said in a statement on Wednesday.
“What has made this rescue of far-reaching significance is that hundreds of young people from Guangzhou, the once so-called ‘world capital of dog and cat meat consumption,’ have participated in the rescue.”
Although the animals were not headed to Yulin prior to the rescue, Li said they were among an estimated 10 to 20 million dogs and four million cats killed annually for human consumption across China.
Li said the rescue was a timely reminder the dog and cat meat trade was not restricted to the Yulin festival, but a nationwide problem all year-round.