Police in China have rescued more than 1,000 cats from being slaughtered and sold as pork or mutton, state-affiliated media report.
Acting on a tip from animal welfare activists, police intercepted the truck that was carrying the felines in the eastern city of Zhangjiagang.
The cats were moved to a shelter, according to a report in The Paper.
The rescue uncovered an illicit trade of cat meat and raised fresh concerns about food safety, the report said.
Cat meat can fetch 4.5 yuan ($0.61; £0.51) per catty, a unit of measure in China that is roughly equivalent to 600g, activists said. One cat can yield four to five catties.
It was unclear if the rescued cats were strays or pets. They were in transit to the country’s south where they were to be served up as pork and lamb skewers and sausages.
According to The Paper, activists in Zhangjiagang had noticed a large number of cats being held in nailed-up wooden boxes in a cemetery and monitored it for six days.
When the cats were loaded onto a truck on 12 October, they stopped the vehicle and called the police.
The story on The Paper, published last Friday, got thousands of angry comments on China’s social media platform Weibo. Some users called for tighter inspections of the food industry.
“May these people die a horrible death,” said one Weibo user.
Another said: “When will there be laws to protect animals? Don’t the lives of cats and dogs matter?”
One user said: “I won’t be eating barbeque meat outside any more.”
In June, uproar resulted at a college in the province of Jiangxi, when a student discovered a rat’s head in his meal. School authorities initially tried to claim that it was duck meat before admitting that the student was right.