It was a toxic mix of greed, jealousy, forestry, business and cat stew. A Chinese CEO is dead and a deputy director of agriculture is in handcuffs.
Business tycoon Long Liyuan had invited forestry official Huang Guang and another associate to a lunch of cat stew at a restaurant in China’s Guangdong province. The region is notorious for its culinary proclivities – it’s said that the people there will eat anything that has four legs except desks.
Long was in the process of purchasing some forestry land, and Huang Guang was angry that he hadn’t been sufficiently cut in on the deal. What happened next was straight out of a bad mafia movie.
Huang excused himself from the table after the three men had placed their order. He snuck into the kitchen, asked to sample the cat stew, told the restaurant owner it needed to boil longer, and asked her to get some drinks for the table. While she was out, he dropped some poison – the deadly herb Gelsemium elegans, which grows wild in China’s forests – into the pot.
Back at the table, and in order not to arouse suspicion, Huang ate some of the stew, but not as much as tycoon Long. Long complained that it tasted bitter, but ate it all. Within a few minutes, all three men had taken ill and were rushed to the hospital. Long died, the other two survived.
The tycoon’s family were suspicious and offered a reward for more information. Soon the whole sorry tale was revealed, and Huang was arrested.
When the story hit the news, Chinese animal protection groups wasted no time in calling for an end to the meat markets where dogs, cats and almost any kind of wildlife are packed into cages and sold for the stewpot.
Millions of cats are killed each year in China for food. A story on CNN describes how, for example, at the Han River Dog Meat Restaurant in central Guangzhou, for example, diners can choose from a long list of menu items, including dog soup, dog steak, dog with tofu and more. The dog hot pot is especially popular, and is served spicy.
“Dog meat is good for your health and metabolism,” explains Li, the hostess who declined to give her first name. “In the summer it helps you sweat.”
Another dish is prepared by the chef paralyzing the cat and then throwing her into boiling water alive. And a Cantonese dish known as “dragon, tiger, and phoenix” is made of snake, cat, and chicken.
But the Chinese authorities are becoming concerned about how their food choice are perceived in other countries. To avoid upsetting international visitors during the Beijing Olympics, officials ordered dog meat off the menus at local markets. And officials in Guangzhou warned vendors to stop selling cats and dogs ahead of the Asian Games which were held there last year.
But there’s also a growing distaste for the way cats and dogs are treated, including how pets are routinely stolen and then sold to the meat markets. The animal protection movement is gaining steam, and a few months ago, two animal protection groups worked together to pay $13,000 to a dog trader in exchange for 800 dogs who were on their way to restaurants, along with a pledge that he would give up his business.
What you can do: The Chinese Animal Protection Network includes several organizations working to bring an end to cruelty to animals in China.