Police find 2,000 dead cats intended for use in traditional medicine

Vietnamese police have discovered around 2,000 dead cats intended for use in traditional medicine, state media said Friday. The bodies of the felines were found at a slaughterhouse in Dong Thap province in the Mekong Delta on Thursday, together with 480 live animals, according to the official provincial newspaper.

The cats were in cold storage and believed to be destined for northern Vietnam.

Some in Vietnam believe that extracts from cat bones can help cure conditions such as asthma and osteoporosis.

It is estimated that up to a million cats fall victim to the illegal wildlife trade every year in Vietnam, according to animal welfare organization Four Paws International.

Consumption of dogs and cats is legal in the country. Many restaurants serve the meat but need certificates to show the origin of the animals.

The slaughterhouse in Dong Thap failed to provide paperwork authorizing the killings and detailing traceability.

No one has been arrested in the case so far.

The traditional medicine industry is a major driver of the illegal wildlife trade in Asia, and Vietnam is both a consumption and transport hub.

This picture taken on January 27, 2015 shows seized cages of live cats transported in a truck in Hanoi.  / Credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Traditional medicine products are also fueling the illegal trade of big cats in Asia, according to a 2019 report from the non-profit World Animal Protection.

The report found that in Vietnam, 89% of consumers of traditional Asian medicine believe in unproven products made from tigers and lions.  Of those that use traditional medicine products in Vietnam, 84% preferred big cat products from animals caught in the wild, the report found.

Felines are not the only animal used in these products.  Pangolins, the world's most heavily trafficked mammal, have been brought to the brink of extinction because their scales are popular in Asian traditional medicine.

A global operation in 2018 saw 8 tons of pangolin scales seized worldwide, half of that by Vietnamese maritime authorities on board a ship arriving from Congo.

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