Around 1,000 cats have had a lucky escape from ending up in Chinese restaurants after the lorry they were travelling in crashed.
The cats were heading towards the restaurants of the Guangdong area until the road accident occurred in Changsha and enabled 50 locals to rescue them.
The cats were found to be thirsty and starving, packed together in cramped cages; they were nursed with food and water before being sent to the Changsha Small Animals Protection Association for further treatment.
It is thought that a boost in economic fortunes in Guangdong has been linked to a surge in the popularity of eating cat.
According to the Daily Mail, they are cruelly stored in restaurant kitchen cupboards, and every evening they are moved to cages outside the premises, where customers can choose which one they want to eat. They will then be killed by a chef, usually by cutting its throat.
The paper also reports that cats such as these can spend up to two months squeezed 25 at a time in cages that measure two foot by three foot. Many die before they reach their final destination.
In this case, a number of the cats were found to be already dead, including newborn babies.
A spokesman from the Animal Asia Foundation told the Daily Mail: "People have more money in their pockets now, so for many these so-called delicacies have become affordable.
"Eating cat is probably more popular in the south-east than anywhere else but increasingly we are finding that it is on the menu all over China."
Indeed, it is not the first time lorries delivering cats to restaurants in China have been intercepted; back in November, a truck filled with 500 cats, thought to be on their way to a number of eateries, was intercepted in Xuzhou, eastern China's Jiangsu Province.
Officer Sun Hai said he and a colleague pulled the vehicle over during a routine check-up.
He told Rex Features: "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."
The animals were crammed together in cages, while some were also tied up in burlap sacks.
They were eventually transferred to an animal rescue centre at Tangzhang County.
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