(Un)necessary evil? Taiwan authorities spark outcry after KILLING 154 rare-breed cats seized from smugglers

Some 154 rare-breed cats seized from smugglers in Taiwan ended up culled, prompting massive outrage. The authorities defended the move, blaming the demise of the cats on criminals and promising to tighten anti-smuggling laws.

The haul of cats was seized by Taiwan’s Coast Guard last Thursday during a botched attempt to get the animals on the island, claimed by China as an integral part of the country.

The cats were found concealed in hidden compartments on a fishing boat. Multiple animals were crammed into a single crate, footage released by Taiwan’s Coast Guard administration shows.

©  Coast Guard Administration

A total of 62 cages containing 154 animals were found on the boat. The haul was estimated to have a value of TN$10 million (around US$357,000) and included such rare and fancy breeds as Ragdoll, British Shorthair, Persian American Shorthair and Russian Blue cats.

The bust of the smugglers, however, did no good to the cats that ended up in the hands of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection (BAPHIQ). Citing veterinary rules, the BAPHIQ put all the cats down, saying they might have carried assorted diseases and potentially posed a danger to local domestic and wild animals.

The decision by the Taiwanese authorities turned out to be extremely ill-received, prompting widespread outrage, with the country’s nationals and animal rescue groups alike blasting the authorities over the euthanasia. Adding insult to injury, the mass culling of the ill-fated cats occurred on International Homeless Animals Day.

“Animals are innocent. There are rules about border regulations, but they can actually check whether animals are sick or not,” said a spokesperson for the Taiwan Animal Emergency Rescue NGO. “I understand the importance of laws and regulations for the domestic ecology, but… I hope that the law can be amended and treat these lives in a more humane way.”

The outrage was so huge that the issue was addressed by Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen. The president herself owns two cats, which frequent her social media feeds.

In a Facebook post, Tsai said she understands the outrage over the culling, stating that many pet owners “share the same feelings” over the affair. At the same time, she blamed smugglers for the demise of the cats, stating it was their greed and treating of “life as an illegal cargo” that had ultimately led to the deaths. The president also called for amendments to existing laws to handle such incidents “with the spirit of humanity” in the future.

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The extermination of the cats was also defended as a necessary evil by the head of the Council of Agriculture (COA), Chen Chi-chung. The official claimed that even after a quarantine the cats could have posed danger to the local ecosystem, taking full responsibility for the ill-received move.

“Even after quarantine, these cats could still carry… diseases due to the long latency periods of viruses, which could pose a major threat to pets and farm animals in Taiwan,” Chen told a news conference on Sunday.

The COA minister also announced proposed changes to the existing laws. Namely, the COA suggests allowing prison sentences for live animal smugglers of more than seven years, which is currently the maximum penalty. Apart from that, the agency seeks to bump up fines for animal smuggling, which currently range from NT$100,000 to NT$3 million (some US$3,500 to US$107,000). If the change is adopted, the fines would start from the NT$3 million mark, according to Chen.

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Source:RT World News

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