BEIJING: Thousands of pet cats in Beijing are being abandoned by their owners and sent to die in secretive government pounds as China mounts an aggressive drive to clean up the capital in preparation for the Olympic Games.
Hundreds of cats a day are being rounded and crammed into cages so small they cannot even turn around. Then they are trucked to what animal welfare groups describe as death camps on the edges of the city.
The cull comes in the wake of a government campaign warning of the diseases cats carry and ordering residents to help clear the streets of them.
Cat owners, terrified by the disease warning, are dumping their pets in the streets to be picked up by special collection teams.
Paranoia is so intense that six stray cats -including two pregnant females – were beaten to death with sticks by teachers at a Beijing kindergarten, who feared they might pass illnesses to the children.
China’s leaders are convinced that animals pose a serious urban health risk and may have contributed to the outbreak of SARS – a deadly respiratory virus – in 2003.
But the crackdown on cats is seen by animal campaigners as just one of a number of extreme measures being taken by communist leaders to ensure that its capital appears clean, green and welcoming during the Olympics.
Polluting factories in and around the city are being ordered to shut down or relocate during the Games to ease Beijing’s choking smog and drivers are allowed out on to the roads only three times a week.