FIVE hundred dogs narrowly escaped being sold for meat thanks to animal lovers who rescued them from a truck transporting them for slaughter.
The dogs were spotted by a driver on a motorway outside Beijing who swerved his car in front of the truck to block its path. He posted an alert on a social network which then went viral.
Several hundred people surrounded the truck, demanding the dogs’ release. Authorities were powerless to intervene because in China there are no laws against animal cruelty.
After a 15-hour standoff the rescuers secured the release of the dogs by buying them from the trucking company. The £10,000 bill was footed by an animal rights charity.
The dogs are now receiving medical attention before being offered for adoption in Beijing.
"More than 90 per cent of them have distemper or parvovirus,” one of the vets treating them told reporters. "Some have other health problems and are not at all strong. Only the puppies are disease-free.”
Dog meat dealers are under pressure from animal rights campaigners who want the trade banned. It has been eaten in China for centuries and is considered a delicacy and served up in restaurants that specialise in so-called ‘wild taste’.
In traditional Chinese medicine dog meat is thought to warm the body during the cold winter months, and cat meat is said to be good for the bones. But the country’s growing number of animal lovers – many of them middle class city-dwellers – say dogs and cats should only be kept as pets. They claim many of the animals which end up in markets are pets that have been stolen from their owners.