Article published on the 2009-06-29 Latest update 2009-06-29 15:08 TU
"They had clearly been abused. They were squeezed into such small cages. Some of the cages contained more than 20 cats. Two of these cats had been dead for a while when we found them," rescuer Lai Xiaoyu told AFP.
More than 50 pet owners went out looking for their cats after activists alerted people via the internet about the issue.
"The cats were going to be delivered to Guangdong to go into a local soup called 'Tiger v. Dragon' which is made with snake and cat," Lai said.
The cat rustler, Yang Baoguo, was arrested by police after he fought the people who ran into the frieght yard to rescue their cats. If he had been successful, he would have received about 50 yuan (5 euros) per cat, according to prices reported by Shanghai Daily paper.
But Yang, who has traded cats for a decade, was released later by police because there are no animal protection laws in China. The cats could not be considered stolen property either, because they are not registered, like dogs are, so ownership cannot be proven.
"There is no law in China saying cats cannot be eaten," said a policeman quoted by the paper. "Cats are not a protected animal."
Cat is traditionally eaten in southern regions of China, according to Chinese media.