The authorities in Chengdu, Sichuan Province raided a slaughterhouse which killed cats and sold them as rabbit meat, media reported on Tuesday.
The discovery was made on November 22 when the police found nearly 1 ton of live and frozen domestic cats after raiding three separate sites used as a storage space, an icehouse and a slaughterhouse, the Chengdu Business Daily reported.
When the slaughterhouse in the town of Shunjiang was raided, several domestic cats were floating in the blood-stained water used for drowning them, with several more either inside a machine to remove their fur or inside a sack awaiting slaughter, according to the report.
"This is not illegal. What's wrong with me buying and selling cats?" Huang Pingfu, the ringleader said when asked if the cats were sold as rabbit meat to butchers and restaurants.
Huang, who would kill over 100 cats a day for a daily profit of around 3,000 yuan (5), claimed he had been trafficking cats for more than 20 years and had turned it into a lucrative business.
Most of the cat carcasses, sold for 20 yuan per kilogram, were bought by meat wholesalers or butchers and restaurants as rabbit. Other cats that were kept alive were shipped in 200-cat batches to South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region at a wholesale price of 32 yuan per cat.
The live cats rescued from the sites have been transferred to local animal protection organizations and shelters.
Since China does not have specialized factories for processing cat meat, which usually has high maintenance cost, surplus domestic cats are released in cities and are caught by traffickers, Chen Minjie, a staffer from the Cat and Dog Welfare Program with the Animal Asia Foundation, told the Global Times. To avoid trafficking, Chinese authorities should decrease the number of cats through sterilization, Chen said.