Cages of living cats smuggled from China are loaded off a truck in Hanoi on January 27, 2015. Photo credit: Kien Thuc
Hanoi police Tuesday seized a truck smuggling more than three tons of cats, all alive, to sell to restaurants in Vietnam.
They checked the truck at around midnight when it was parked on a street, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
Hoang Van Hieu, the 30-year-old driver and owner of the undocumented shipment, said he bought the cats at the border area and that all of them were from China, the paper said.
Police are investigating further, saying they will deal with the cats "in accordance with the laws".
In Vietnam, smuggled products are required to be destroyed. It is uncertain at this point what local authorities would do with these cats.
Cat smuggling from China is not new, but the practice has become more widespread recently.
Insiders said the biggest markets for cat meat are in Thai Binh and Nam Dinh provinces near Hanoi, where the meat is still considered by some as a delicacy and served at festive occasions like wedding parties.
Animal rights groups have condemned cat and dog meat trade in several Asian countries, including China and Vietnam.
Vietnamese health officials have warned of the risks of rabies, fungal skin diseases and typhoid fever to people involving in the smuggling, slaughtering and eating of animals that have not been tested.
Cats are also the primary hosts of Toxoplasmosis gondii, a parasitic organism that can cause encephalitis and other neurological diseases, they said.
UPDATE: This video, released by Hanoi Police news website, anninhthudo.vn, shows police officers checking the truck full of cats.