The story appears on

Page P2

September 19, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » People

Film maker puts lens on cat cruelty

IT is very common to see feral and homeless cats in the city but few people realize that they may end up being cruelly and slowly butchered and then served as a delicacy to diners in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.

A new 68-minute documentary "San Hua" documents the inhumane treatment and eating of cats -- both strays and farmed cats -- in southern China, with scenes shot in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Suzhou.

"San Hua," or "Three Flowers" is the name of the pet cat belonging to the man behind the project, cinematographer Guo Ke from Shanghai.

Directed by controversial artist Ai Weiwei, the film took more than seven months to produce and many of the scenes were shot by hidden cameras wielded by undercover photographers posing as buyers in markets and diners in restaurants.

It is believed to be the country's first major documentation of widespread animal cruelty and the film calls for passage of China's first national law against animal abuse, which would ban eating cats and dogs.

Some cats are rounded up, squashed in cages and trucked south to markets where many died. Many, quite possibly millions, are also raised by farmers in southern China and sold to restaurants.

Because killing kittens is considered bad luck by some, cats are raised under appalling conditions until they are 12 months old and ready to be eaten.

And when animals die slowly, their meat is said to be more flavorful.

"Dragon fighting tiger" ("longhudou"), is an especially famous dish made of snake and cat. The dish can cost several hundreds yuan.

Cat meat is said to be nutritious and warming.

Some dishes feature the stomach, intestines, testicles and eyes. Cantonese people are especially fond of dog and cat meat (and other parts), as well as meat of other non-game animals.

As Chinese people get richer due to a booming economy, eating exotic dishes is considered a way to flaunt one's wealth.

Last year, Guo noticed the cruel and hidden industry chain of catching or breeding cats, then selling them to satisfy a big demand by restaurants in Guangdong.

Selling homeless city cats to restaurants is profitable, and in recent years there have been several reported cases of mass abductions of cats in Shanghai.

The film was screened in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in July and August and received positive feedback from animal lovers.

Cinematographer Guo spoke with Shanghai Daily about shooting the film and what he hopes to achieve.

Q: What inspired you to make the film?

A: My team and I love cats and keep a pet cat, San Hua, in our studio. In late 2009 we saved more than 300 homeless cats about to be transported from Shanghai to the restaurants of Guangdong Province. All the cats were baited and caught by vendors around the city. The cats were kept in very small cages, wounded and helpless. That's when we decided to make a film about cruelty to these little creatures.

Q: What was the biggest challenge?

A: It was difficult to film as animals are not cooperative. Also, to get first-hand material about the hidden industry chain of selling and eating cats, we had to disguise ourselves as dinner guests or cat skin buyers to approach the vendors and restaurant chefs. But it did not work all the time. Once we were identified by a cat vendor whose cats we saved in 2009. He was very unfriendly.

Q: Was it difficult for a cat lover to make this film?

A: As a cameraman, I had to stay calm and composed even when faced with the inhumane and disgusting killing methods used by Cantonese chefs to keep the cat meat fresh.

Q: What's the message?

A: Many people today are not taking responsibility for animals and pets. Some get tired of their furry friends after a while and abandon them. They don't understand that animals depend on them. It's important for owners to spay or neuter their pets to reduce the number of homeless animals.

Q: What's your advice to authorities on protecting cats?

A: No research proves that dog or cat meat is higher in nutrition. These companion animals do not deserve to be slaughtered for food. China lacks a comprehensive basic law on animal protection, the current legal system is inadequate to stop abuse of animals. Chinese legal experts have drafted an animal protection act. That means change is on the way. We hope the law will be passed soon.

Q: What are your screening plans?

A: It has been shown in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but we have no specific plans. We hope more people will be moved by the film through the Internet and TV screens.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend