Cat meat dressed as mutton in street food, activists say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2006, 12:00am

Beware of cats in sheep's clothing: a Shanghai animal rights group has claimed some kebab vendors are substituting cat meat for the traditional mutton and selling the popular street food under false colours.

The latest allegations, reported in two local newspapers yesterday, are based on genetic testing of 13 kebab samples gathered by Shanghai's Small Animal Protection Association.

Three of the samples appeared to be cat, based on testing by a government-linked laboratory.

Li Ruohai , who manages volunteers workers with the association, said some members had even visited slaughterhouses where cats were killed for their meat. He declined to name the lab which carried out the testing, citing confidentiality.

'We have reported this to many government departments such as the Public Health Bureau, but they are not very helpful because there are no relevant regulations,' he said.

Government officials in charge of food safety declined to comment yesterday, while the health bureau said it bore no responsibility for this issue.

The latest reports have sparked fear among the kebab-eating public.

'I used to eat street kebabs, but I stopped after my friend who owns a restaurant told me some people use meat from stray cats and dogs. He said it was common for street vendors and small restaurants in suburban areas,' said Jimmy Tang, a worker at a logistics company.

'I didn't feel there was any difference in the taste of the meat, but it is disgusting and cruel.'

Mixing mutton fat with cat meat, which was then roasted for use in kebabs or cooked as hot pot, would make it smell like lamb, reports said. Some people also sold cat meat as rabbit meat.

Rumours of 'hanging a goat's head, selling cat meat' have persisted for years in Shanghai, becoming a kind of urban myth. Still, government officials have warned about eating food from roadside vendors due to concerns it might be unsanitary.

Both cat and dog are eaten on the mainland. Shanghai newspapers have previously said rings of cat-catchers buy cats for 2 or 3 yuan apiece and resell them for 15 yuan to markets in southern provinces.

Shanghai animal protection groups say they notice the number of stray cats falls sharply in the winter, when more people eat lamb to stay warm as temperatures drop.

This, coupled with the sudden disappearance of large numbers of strays in residential neighbourhoods, has led activists to believe someone is catching the animals.

The Oriental Morning Post said the number of products such as clothing that made use of cat hair and skin was increasing, and the meat was a natural byproduct of the growing industry.