Cats smuggled from China to Vietnam

Biryani sold at roadside eateries is one of India's most cherished indulgences when it comes to street food. The piece of meat hidden in the saffron-scented rice delights people with its deliciousness. Chennai's roadside eateries are, however, providing the customers with apparently a different treat — cat meat instead of mutton — in their biryani. 

This has been happening for more than two decades in Chennai's roadside eateries, according to an animal welfare group. The group, People for Animals, alleged that a group of gypsies, also known as Narikoravas, has been catching cats, brutally killing them and selling their meat to eateries for a long time.

People for Animals co-founder Shiranee Pereira said the matter was brought to the notice of the Chennai City Police Commissioner in a petition recently. She further stated that with the help of the police they were able to rescue about 40 cats after searching Narikorava settlements.

They were informed by a senior police official that the group used to steal cats and then used to sell the meat as mutton.

"Narikoravas operate from midnight to dawn; [they] catch cats with wire loops and nets," Pereira told PTI.

Hardly anyone questions the meat and its quality and customers end up consuming it, added Pereira.

The animal welfare group received many complaints from people who had lost their cats which, although common, triggered suspicion. Perreira said they were able to capture the gypsies in the last few months with the help of the police, and that the rescued cats are now living a life of peace at the animal shelter.

"The cats are mostly killed by the gypsies in the most horrendous manner by throwing them in hot water," Pereira told NDTV. 

The animal organization is planning to talk to the government regarding the rehabilitation plan for the Narikorava community so that the illegal trade of cat meat can be stopped.

"Corporation of Chennai should also take serious cognizance of this under the Food and Adulteration Act," Pereira said.

S Arun Nirmalan, a social activist, regrets the fact that people live with the misconception that cat meat and blood can cure arthritis and has medicinal properties.

As for the gypsies, he said that cat meat is a popular part of their menu, especially for festivals or weddings.