NEWS AND COMMENT – TAIWAN: I wrote about this earlier. It concerns a smuggling operation when purebred cats of great value are smuggled from mainland China to Taiwan using the sea route. The smugglers have been intercepted and the cats confiscated. It is now reported in The Guardian newspaper that, in total, the cats had an estimated value of 10 million new Taiwan dollars which equates to US$357,504 and tragically they have all been put down i.e. euthanised causing outrage. Click to read an earlier account.
Funny how policy is so easily quoted when it suites – Peter Stormonth on Twitter
This appears to be a very large smuggling operation with a continual number of boats transporting these cats between China and Taiwan. In this latest intervention (there have been many others) coastguards intercepted a fishing vessel from China on Thursday which was about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The Coast Guard officials discovered 62 cages containing purebred cats of the breeds: Russian Blues, Ragdolls, Persians, American Shorthairs and British Shorthairs.
Government officials decided to euthanise them because they were concerned about a biosecurity risk under Covid policy and the risk of rabies which exists in China. They didn’t know where the cats came from and therefore, they felt they had to euthanize them all. But this drastic measure has caused outrage among Taiwanese people and animal rights groups.
Taiwanese people like their cats in general and have a high rate of cat companion ownership. This is why, incidentally, this smuggling operation exists because they are feeding Taiwan’s desire to own fancy purebred cats. The cats killed are also currently very popular and Covid has increased adoptions due to social isolation. The outrage got so bad that Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, who is a cat caregiver herself, decided to make a public statement.
She said that she was saddened by the event but blamed the deaths of the cats on the smugglers. She asked the public to understand that the authorities have to prevent the importation of diseases in smuggled animals. Notwithstanding that statement she said that amendments to the current law should be considered to allow for more humane treatment under these circumstances.
The criticism centres on the obvious, namely: “Why didn’t they put the cats into quarantine?” Why couldn’t they test the cats to see whether they had Covid? A lot of animals have been tested for Covid. It’s quite a routine veterinary diagnosis these days. So why couldn’t they have done that for these cats? Not only were they very valuable they were sentient beings. Holding the cats in quarantine would have cleared the treat of rabies which must have been extremely small.
They could have been rehomed in Taiwan after quarantine and testing. This is an obvious observation and it is quite clear to me that the authorities behaved rashly, callously and in an unthinking way.
The head of the Taiwanese government’s agriculture Council stood by the decision to kill the cats. They said: “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.”
Taiwan is going to punish smugglers more severely through increased fines.
Would they have been the same outrage if the cats were non-purebred? And I think, too, Taiwan needs to look at their citizens’ desire to buy purebred cats rather than adopt rescue cats. You could argue that the only reason why the smugglers are doing this is to feed a surging market for purebred cats. This is about market forces and capitalism. To stop the problem at root you need to dampen down the desire to possess these animals.
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