SHANGHAI - The Chongqing Evening News reports:

One box, two boxes, three boxes, four boxes… Along the railway, boxes and boxes of live cats were awaiting their trip to Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Porvince.

A series of pictures have circulated online for a while: Boxes and boxes of live cats being sent from Nanjing train station to Guangzhou.

“These thousands of cats were screaming together on the platform. Dealers have already sent about 5000 cats from this platform over the last three days," said a train station staff member.

The picture reveals the scene on on December 4, 2008. On platform number five at Nanjing Railway Station, 1,350 cats wree pushed into piles of small wooden boxes. The screaming of the cats could be heard from far away.

In order to save the cats, some people from Nanjing called the police. However, China Railway Express, which was the forwarding agent, had all the necessary paperwork for the transfer so police could not interfere.

According to the railway shipping regulations, the forwarding agency needs only to provide Animal Inspection and Quarantine certification when shipping poultry (which includes cats), and the China Railway Express was able to provide both.  The Quarantine Certification was issued by the veterinary inspection institution of Muyang Town, Jiangsu Province.

A netizen who posted the pictures also wrote the cats would be made to a famous Guangdong dish called “Shui Zhu Hua Mao”, meaning water boiled live cat. The chef paralyzes the cat and throws it into boiled water before skinning it.  Once it's cut into pieces, it's used to make soup.

Guangdong is famous for its cat eating culture. According to statistics, Guangdong Province consumes almost 100,000 cats every day. People believe cats are good for their health, and eat them especially in winter.

Cat dealers in Muyang can send thousands of cats to Guangzhou in one shipment. “It's not just a day or two that people catch or steal cats, and it's not one or two dealers doing this.  This is a whole industry chain!" a cat dealer said.  People who catch cats are at the low end.  One person can catch up to about 20 cats a night.  One cat sells for about RMB 10. A cat dealer stand usually buys between 100 to 300 cats from cat catchers. Then they will sell to a bigger cat dealer stand or directly to the market. A big cat dealer stand can receive thousands of cats at one time.

This cat dealer also said dealers in Guangzhou sometimes want lots of cats urgently. They often kind find enough in Muyang, so they go to wholesale dealers who have stands under the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge.  This is the biggest transfer market for Nanjing cat dealers.

Some netizens said: “Don’t you think eating pork, beef, mutton, chicken, duck or fish is a crucial thing? Why this special feeling for cats? Anyone who eats meat doesn't have the right to criticize.”

This person agreed: "There isn’t any law against eating cats. Pigs can be raised to eat, why can’t we raise cats to eat?”

However, most netizens opposte the practise, and have asked the government to come up with regulations and ban cat eating. “It's not only cruel but also unsanitary. Lots of the cats people eat are homeless cats; some of them have rare, contagious diseases," one netizen said.

Nanjing's Dongfang Weibao reports:

There is a hidden black market in Guanpingyuan Community that sells cats. Every morning, people come here to sell cats and at night, vans take boxes and boxes of cats to Guangdong Province.

On September 2, a reporter from Dongfang Weibao visited the black market. The so-called cat market actually has just two dealers. In the house of one of the dealers, the reporter saw ten cases filled with small cats.  The cats had defecated all over the place, and the smell was awful. “Our boss, Dai, went home for a rest," said Mr. Zhou, who sat beside the cat house. "He needs to get up really early every morning. Normally, he will get back around half past four and start to prepare for the vans to come at night to take the cats to Guangdong.”

Compared to Mr.Dai’s outdoor stand, the other cat dealer had a much nicer cat house. Outside the cement room, there were piles wooden cases. The cases were empty, however hair and feces from cats were everywhere. Four people were drinking beers. They all stood up when the reporter walked in. The reporter claimed that he was here to buy cats. One guy asked the reporter a lot of questions and finally told the reporter they were wholesale dealers, so they didn’t do any retail business. Another guy said right after, “We don’t sell cats, we never have sold any before. Go to the another stand, they have!” The others were silent. The reporter went back to Mr. Dai’s stand.

Mr. Zhou was still there and he said: “If you want to perchase some cats, you have to wait for Mr. Dai to come back. The other stand, they are afraid that you are a reporter or plain-clothes policeman, so they won’t talk to you. I don’t think Mr. Dai will sell you cats either. Maybe just one.  Do you know these two stands ship 1000 cats to Guangzhou everyday? I can talk to Mr. Dai and he may sell you one for 30 Yuan.”

The reporter asked Mr. Zhou how the cats tasted. “It tastes great! I have had it several times, and it is better than dog meat. It is not as sour as people say. It has to be cooked by experienced chefs though, otherwise it won’t taste good.”

The kittens by Mr. Zhou were about three months old. When the reporter asked where cats came from, Mr. Zhou said they were all from the outskirts of Nanjing and Zhenjiang. “Many of them are poulty cats, very few are homeless.”

“If they were pet cats, why would the owners only sell them for 30 each?”

“Haha, there are a certain amount of people in the outskirts of the city who are ‘professional cat catchers’.  Normally they go out at night and wait for the cats outside communities or yards. They use little birds as bait and put them into specially-designed cat catcher cases. They can catch 10-20 cats a night for one cat catcher,” Mr. Zhou explained.