Local volunteers rescued an estimated 1,000 cats from near-slaughter after the truck carrying the felines was involved in a traffic accident in Changsha, China.
The cats, trapped in more than 40 cramped cages on the truck, were en route to Guangdong, where they would be sold to restaurants as meat. After the truck crash, the cats were left stranded in their cages in the abandoned truck as the driver was taken to the hospital, China News reports.
Police officer Wang Yujing and others took to Chinese micro-blogging site Sina Weibo to call for volunteers to save the helpless animals.
According to the website Care For Chinese Animals, dozens of locals turned up at the crash site in the early morning hours on Jan. 14 to rescue the cats, negotiating with the business owner to purchase the animals who appeared to be starving and dehydrated.
Volunteers nursed the mistreated cats with food, water and milk on site, before ultimately transporting the majority of them to the Changsha Small Animal Protection Association for further treatment. Some animals were taken home by rescuers.
Volunteers try to save cats locked in cases without food and water, after a traffic accident on a street of Changsha, Hunan province, January 14, 2013. (Photo via China Daily/Reuters)
While animal rights activists have protested the practice for years, merchants continue to sell cats to restaurants in China since there are no laws to criminalize the behavior. Cat snatchers supply the majority of the felines in China's cat meat market, selling each cat for $1 to $2 to a middle man who transports the cargo to restaurants, the Telegraph reports.
Cat meat is eaten in countries around the world. However, an estimated 4 million cats are eaten in China each year, local Nanfang Daily newspaper reported in December, according to China Daily.
This is hardly the first time activists have responded to a call to arms to rescue cats from being sold as meat. In recent years, local police in China have become actively involved in the rescue and recovery of cats destined for the meat market.
In November, Xuzhou police pulled over a truck with out-of-state license plates only to discover the cargo was meowing, the Telegraph notes. Officers stalled the vehicle until volunteers arrived to strike a deal for purchase the cats from the drivers.