By David Baker
PUBLISHED:16:55 EST, 1 November 2012| UPDATED:17:16 EST, 1 November 2012
These pictures show the disturbing moment a truck crammed with 500 cats was stopped during a routine check – as it made its way to restaurants across China.
The neglected and hungry cats were piled together in cages as the truck seemingly made its way to food outlets to sell the pets as meat.
Luckily, the animals, some of which had been cruelly stuffed in bags, were rescued thanks to vehicle checks in Xuzhou, in the eastern province of Jiangsu.
Disturbing: When the cats were found some had been struggling to breathe through small holes in burlap sacks
Caged animals: Many of the 500 cats were crammed together in tiny cages as they made the trip in the back of the truck across China
Having pulled over the truck in what they assumed was a run of the mill stop, officers were shocked to find the horrific haul.
Officer Sun Hai, who helped rescue the terrified felines along with a colleague, said: ‘The driver said it was a full load of rabbit.
‘But after we instructed him to uncover the load we were shocked to find a full load of living cats.’
Intercepted: The felines were rescued thanks to routine vehicle checks, before they were sold as food
Helping hand: Volunteers rushed to give the cats water, before they were transferred to an animal centre for treatment
Horrifying: Some of the cats had been stuffed into bags with barely enough room to breathe
Following the find the pair informed volunteers from a local animal protection centre who quickly arrived on the scene.
They cut open the bags with keys and knives to save the animals from suffocation and also bought water and food.
It is believed that the owner of the load refused to reveal where the cats had come from and it even took seven hours of negotiations to get him to hand them over to rescue teams.
The cats have now been transferred to an animal rescue centre at Tangzhang County, where they are being treated.
As a nation of pet lovers Brits have long been condemning the treatment of animals in China, where cats and dogs are believed to be widely sold as food.
Previously cats and dogs have be seen squeezed inside cages with no room to move, many of them diseased, in a live animal market in Nanhai, China.
Lucky escape: Fortunately the haul of cats are now being cared for at an animal centre
The Three Birds Market, where cats live in small metal baskets, is deemed to be operating as a poultry market in southern China
Dog meat is also thought to be a staple food in this area of China and people believe it is the best meat to keep them warm during winter.
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