A network of Shanghai cat-lovers organised via the Internet has intervened to save 800 felines being transported to a southern Chinese province to be sold as foodstate media reported Tuesday.
The cats were loaded in a truck that was about to depart the eastern Chinese city on Friday, destined for dinner tables in Guangdong province, the China Daily newspaper said.
But a well-known local cat-lover informed police, prompting a standoff, the report said.
Other animal rights enthusiasts who got wind of the situation via cat-related websites then arrived on the scene, pooling their money to buy the animals after local police refused to confiscate them, it said.
Cats are commonly eaten in Guangdong Province, where their meat sells for around 15 yuan (two dollars) per kilogramme (2.2 pounds), the report said.
"Many people are involved in this business. A teenager once told me he could make 20,000 to 30,000 yuan per month doing this," it quoted Huo Puyang, a Shanghai woman known for rescuing cats, as saying.
Her daughter-in-law, Duo Zirong, another cat rescuer, told the paper three other trucks packed with cats managed to set out before police took any action.
The truck drivers produced documents showing the cats were raised on a commercial farm in nearby Anhui province.
The animals, many of which were in poor health, have been taken in by the cat enthusiasts. Eventually, pictures of many of them will be posted online for adoption.