Cats smuggled from China to Vietnam
Thousands of living cats smuggled from China to Vietnam be slaughtered.Reuters

Thousands of cats that were being smuggled from China to Vietnam "for consumption" were seized in the capital city of Hanoi.

An officer from Dong Da district police station was quoted by The Japan Times as saying that the "three tons" of live cats, bought from China's northeastern Quang Ninh province were being smuggled in a truck "for consumption" in Hanoi. Discovered by the police in the Vietnamese capital on Tuesday, the fate of the cats still remains unknown.

According to the Vietnamese laws on smuggled goods, all the cats would have to be destroyed. However, since they are animals, the officials are divided on what to do with them. "We have not made up our mind what to do with them" because of the large volume of animals, the policeman has revealed.

Cat meat or "little tiger" is a popular dish in Vietnam and although it is officially banned, many specialist hotels still serve them. In fact, the demand for feline meat is so high that pet-owners keep them indoors or tied up for fear of thieves. The biggest markets for cat meat are reportedly in Thai Binh and Nam Dinh provinces near Hanoi, where the meat is served at festive occasions like wedding parties, according to Tanh Nien News.

Cat meat, although not very popular in China, is still served as a delicacy in some restaurants, particularly in the south.

Although smuggling cats from China to Vietnam is not a new offence, the frequency of the crime seems to have increased in recent times.