NFT hamsters project launched in Hong Kong amid public backlash over Covid-19 cull

·3 min read

A non-fungible token (NFT) project featuring 2,000 pixel art hamsters has been launched in Hong Kong, after the public hit out at a government decision to cull the animals over the possible risk of Covid-19 transmission to humans.

Earlier this week, Hong Kong authorities asked pet shops and owners to hand over about 2,000 hamsters for a mass cull and temporarily suspended imports of small animals, after 11 samples taken from hamsters in a local pet store came back positive for Covid. The shopkeeper and a customer were confirmed to be infected with the same Delta variant.

The city government has not walked back its decision despite petitions calling for an end to the cull, and experts warning that it could lead to people abandoning their pets.

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The NFT project, called Carries Hamsters - after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, was launched on Thursday as hamster owners in the city started dropping off their pets at a government facility.

"We will not stand for euthanising of our little hamsters," read an Instagram post from the team announcing the project on Thursday. "To stand up, spread [the] word and positivity - 2,000 hamsters will be resurrected on the Solana blockchain with proceeds being directly donated to an animal charity combating the euthanising of animals," the post said.

An image captured from Facebook shows pixel art hamsters from an NFT project launched amid Hong Kong's hamster cull. Photo: Facebook alt=An image captured from Facebook shows pixel art hamsters from an NFT project launched amid Hong Kong's hamster cull. Photo: Facebook>

The Solana blockchain boasts faster speeds and lower costs than blockchains such as Ethereum. NFTs, data stored on a blockchain that guarantees a digital asset is unique and immutable, swept over the world last year, as people snapped up cartoon avatars, virtual property and digital artworks costing millions of dollars.

Countless NFT projects have been launched in Hong Kong, a major cryptocurrency hub, with some of the high-profile ones taking over the city's prime ad spots.

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Carries hamsters will mint digital hamsters of "all sorts and colours, with attributes that directly relate back to our home, Hong Kong," said the project's Instagram post.

The project also said on Instagram that proceeds from the sale will go to an animal charity that will be selected by a vote by its community the day before minting - the process of creating an NFT by adding data from the digital file to a blockchain.

However, some netizens have criticised the project, with one Instagram user commenting that it was "trying to profit off of the death of thousands of animals".

The team behind the project did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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