Death truck trafficked frightened animals for Chinese meat trade

Chinese activists and police have stopped a truck crammed full of 1,408 cats and dogs on a 750-mile journey to slaughterhouses for the meat trade in China.

Cruel conditions and rampant illness meant 370 had already died on what the activists are calling the 'death truck' from Fucheng, north China, to Yulin in the south.

China has no animal protection laws that charities can use to prosecute traders for cruelty, but the two truck drivers were able to be detained for transporting sick animals between provinces without the right paperwork.

Hao Da-yue of the Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA) activist group, which helped rescue the animals in Xiao Tao city, said: 'I've attended many rescues of dogs and cats from the meat trade, but never before have I encountered such a shocking scene. 

'This was a death truck, crammed full with desperate, frightened, traumatised animals caged up with their dead and dying companions.'

She continued: 'The smell of death, diarrhoea and vomit was overwhelming, and the sound of the animals whimpering and crying for our attention, was just heartbreaking. 

'I saw a number of dogs and cats die on the roadside despite desperate attempts to help them, there was nothing that could be done but hold them as they passed away.

'Activists worked with tears in their eyes, many clearly shocked by what they were witnessing. The world needs to see how these poor dogs and cats suffer for China's meat trade. 

'Such appalling cruelty brings shame on China and shame on the majority of Chinese people who want nothing to do with this despicable trade.'

Eating cats and dogs has become less popular in China as pet ownership has steadily risen.

The slaughter, sale and consumption of dogs is banned or otherwise ended has been banned in Shenzhen and Zhuhai in mainland China, and many other Asian countries have introduced laws prohibiting the practice in recent years.

A poll of 378 million people following the 2020 bans in China found 75% of Chinese citizens agree with the ruling. 

The 'death truck' was intercepted on 1 October in Xian Tao city in central China's Hubei province, half way along its intended 745 mile (1,200km) journey from Fucheng in the north to Yulin in the south.

After the police stopped the truck, rescuers from local animal groups were met by Beijing-based dog meat campaign specialists from Capital Animal Welfare Association who were able to carefully unload the traumatised animals. 

They found animals suffering with open wounds, broken bones, respiratory disease and severe dehydration, as well as many that had not survived the journey.

The activists administered emergency treatment on the roadside, temporarily moving the dogs to a nearby school and the cats to a holding facility to be sent on to shelters.

Hao Da-yue attended the scene and estimates that most of the 718 dogs were likely stolen pets, and the 690 cats were probably snatched from the streets. The surviving animals are now being cared for by staff at local shelters who are administering life-saving treatment. 

They fear that the animals have endured such an ordeal, more may yet succumb to their injuries and sickness. HSI is providing emergency funds to help some of the shelters caring for the animals. 

The two truck drivers have been detained by police and reported to Xian Tao officials, and the trader who contracted them and accumulated the animals now faces investigation by the Agriculture Bureau and could face charges for transporting sick animals across provincial boundaries without legally-required quarantine papers.