154 smuggled purebred cats "culled" because of the risk of disease transmission

CHINA AND TAIWAN-NEWS AND COMMENT: It appears to be a well-known fact in Taiwan that purebred cats are being smuggled by boat across the sea from mainland China to Taiwan in order to feed what appears to be an insatiable appetite for the possession of fancy purebred cats such as Ragdolls and Persians in Taiwan. These cats are very valuable. There appears to be many boat trips between these countries. I have written about this recently - please click to read.

154 purebred cats smuggled from China to Taiwan by sea have been put down
154 purebred cats smuggled from China to Taiwan by sea have been put down. Photo: Twitter.

Recently the coastguard stopped a boat about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Taiwan inside of which were 62 cages containing 154 purebred cats of the following breeds: Russian Blues, Ragdolls, Persians, American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs. The cats were seized with a value of 10 million new Taiwan dollars which equates to US$357,504.

The authorities decided to cull them i.e. kill them or euthanise them to use a euphemism. They did this because of what they claim to be biosecurity reasons because of Covid and rabies. Rabies is present in China. Animal advocates were outraged and asked why the authorities could not have decided upon a more humane treatment such as placing the cats into quarantine to confirm that they were free of disease and then adopting them out.

In response, the authorities have appeared to demonstrate some acceptance that they could have done better and behaved more humanely. The website Taiwan News pitches the story in a different manner. They say that Taiwan is going to pursue severe punishment of animal smugglers in the wake of this cat culling. That focus is on punishing the smugglers which is exactly what the authorities would argue. It is not their fault they argue that they had to cull fancy purebred cats but the fault of the smugglers who need to be punished more severely. The Council of Agriculture (COA) is seeking an amendment to the Smuggling Penalty Act to slap a NT$3 million (US$107,227) fine on those trading pet animals without legitimate origins

Within that mix you might have to add the citizens of Taiwan who are purchasing these cats. I wonder whether they know where they came from? Perhaps they don't care and there might lie the problem. When a person adopts a purebred cat, they should always go to the breeder's establishment to see the cats with their mother and make a selection there. Should not buy a purebred cat online sight unseen.

The president of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) , a cat caregiver herself, was moved to make a statement about this because she was obviously upset by what had gone on. I interpret her statement to include an agreement that they could do better but she towed the official line namely that the culling had to happen because rabies on mainland China. The virus could be latent for years they say and so could pose a significant threat to animals and even people in Taiwan.

One issue, obviously, is that people don't know how or where these cats are being bred. And that is another significant issue. The smugglers are not only taking advantage of Taiwanese citizens who are purchasing the cats but their operation is based upon probably quite dubious breeders whose standard of animal welfare might well be very low. We don't know how healthy these cats were. It is probably likely that there were no certificates provided with the cats to confirm that they were clear of diseases as usual when a registered cat breeder sells purebred kittens.

The great tragedy in the story is of course that 154 domestic cats have been killed. They are the innocent victims. An interesting thought is whether cat loving Taiwanese citizens would feel the same outrage if 154 moggies had been killed under the same circumstances.

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