Olympics Cleanup Chinese Style

Beijing Olympics Cat CullThousands of pet cats in Beijing are being abandoned by their owners and sent to die in secretive government pounds as China mounts an aggressive drive to clean up the capital in preparation for the Olympic Games, according to a recent Daily Mail (UK) article.

Hundreds of cats a day are being rounded and crammed into cages so small they cannot even turn around. Then they are trucked to what animal welfare groups describe as death camps on the edges of the city.

The cull comes in the wake of a government campaign warning of the diseases cats carry and ordering residents to help clear the streets of them.

Cat owners, terrified by the disease warning, are dumping their pets in the streets to be picked up by special collection teams. Paranoia is so intense that six stray cats -including two pregnant females – were beaten to death with sticks by teachers at a Beijing kindergarten, who feared they might pass illnesses to the children.

The crackdown on cats is seen by animal campaigners as just one of a number of extreme measures being taken by communist leaders to ensure that its capital appears clean, green and welcoming during the Olympics.

Polluting factories in and around the city are being ordered to shut down or relocate during the Games to ease Beijing’s choking smog and drivers are allowed out on to the roads only three times a week.

Beggars and street sleepers are being moved to out-of-town camps or given train fares back to their home provinces.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers have been made to attend lessons in how to greet passengers politely in English and a city-wide courtesy campaign has been launched to teach Beijing’s notoriously dour and grumpy citizens how to smile and be pleasant to foreigners.

The cull of Beijing’s estimated 500,000 cat population is certain to provoke international outrage as it comes just over a year after the Chinese were criticized for rounding up and killing stray dogs across the country.

Retired doctor Hu Yuan, 80, runs one of the few remaining refuges for abandoned pets in her ramshackle home in the ancient Long Tou Jing area of Beijing. She pays for neutering and food from her pension and donations. She said: “If I don’t take them in, the government will kill them.

“People believe what the government tells them and that is why they are abandoning more and more family pets. The situation is very bad now. When women get pregnant, the doctor will ask them if they have a cat in the house. If they reply Yes, they tell them, ‘You must get rid of it, it will be bad for the baby’.”

“Look at me. I live with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week and I am very healthy.”

The round-up has been particularly intense in areas around Olympic venues and in streets and alleys surrounding five-star hotels where guests will stay during the summer games.

Despite the health warnings, the round-up of cats has led to a surge in the number of restaurants in the capital serving cat meat.

Hundreds of cats were also being sent to Guangzhou in southern China, an area infamous for restaurants that serve meat from cats and dogs and exotic animals such as snakes and tigers.

Daily Mail UK

The Times has also picked up the story and Alley Cat Allies reports it here.

Qin Xiaona, head of the animal welfare association, told The Times: “This is nothing less than torture. And the situation is much worse than this for dogs.”

The drive was announced by the city’s agricultural bureau director at a recent meeting of the municipal parliament. He ordered that all stray cats must be caught and taken off the streets before the end of June to ensure the city looks its best for the two-week-long Olympic games starting on August 8.

Mrs Qin said: “The officials said they did not want the Olympic athletes to see a single stray animal. This is partly because the Chinese care so much about face.”

The 2006 Dog Cull

Thanks to thousands of letters from concerned animal lovers around the world, including from within China, a similar anti-dog crackdown in Beijing officially stopped in 2006. According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese President Hu Jintao “was unhappy about the complaints and international media coverage” of the crackdown and put a stop to it.

IFAW Dog Cull Coverage

An Olympic Disgrace at Salon.

An Eerie Silence

The media and the big animal welfare organizations have been eerily silent on the subject.

According to one of my favourite organizations, Best Friends, “there is no clear confirmation from inside China that this is indeed happening…”

“Irene Zhang, Manager of Animal Rescue Beijing, and a friend of Best Friends, has written that Ms. Wu, the Founder of Animal Rescue Beijing, has talked with the managers of the parks in Beijing, and was told that they are no longer seeing cats being trapped by the authorities, and that that activity has stopped.” (italics mine)

“Irene Zhang also reports that animal advocates have been talking with authorities about the conditions in the camps for the street cats, and have received quite a good response.”

“None of the animal welfare groups in China is raising the alarm about the situation of the cats. There is no indication on their websites that anything out of the ordinary is taking place.”

Skim down to the bottom of the article to the links to the Asian humane organizations, and if you click them, be prepared to weep.

What Can You Do?

Worldwide outrage about the recent dog cull in Beijing brought that travesty to a halt. Encourage the Chinese authorities to understand that Olympic athletes would be less concerned about seeing a stray animal on the streets of Beijing than with a massive cull to mask what goes on in the rest of the country.

Write to the Olympic sponsors, as well as animal welfare organizations such as HSUS, IFAW and WSPA. Money talks, especially when it is as lucrative as the Olympics, but so does the Internet.

Olympic sponsors

Beijing Olympics Sponsors
Beijing Olympics Sponsors

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