Cost of Cute Cover

Cost of Cute: Why Animal Abuse is Rife in China’s Pet Industry

China’s pet industry is booming, but abuse is rampant at every stage of the sector

After an hour on the highway, driver Zhang Huanan (pseudonym) pulls his white sedan into a service station, opens the trunk, and drips bottled water onto four panting Persian kittens. Their fur is matted with sweat, and they claw at the bars of their wire cage in a pathetic bid for freedom. The tissues lining the floor do little to absorb the urine and feces.

Despite Zhang’s encouraging chirruping sounds, the exhausted, oxygen-starved pets give little response. The trunk is slammed shut after five minutes, as Zhang is anxious to be on his way—there’s another two hours to the kittens’ destination, a pet shop in an upscale shopping center in a so-called “fifth-tier” city with a population of 1.3 million in northeastern China.

Driving with animals in the trunk would run afoul of anti-animal cruelty legislation in several countries around the world. But without comprehensive animal protection laws, nor widespread education to encourage compassion toward animals among children or adults, there is little to deter individuals and companies in China from mistreating animals for profit, pleasure, or simply to cut costs.

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Cost of Cute: Why Animal Abuse is Rife in China’s Pet Industry is a story from our issue, “Access Wanted.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Alex Colville

Alex Colville is the former culture editor at The World of Chinese. Blown to China by the tides of curiosity, then marooned here by the squalls of Covid, Alex used to write for 1843, The Economist, and the Spectator from the confines of a cold London flat. When he’s not writing for TWOC, he can be found researching his bi-weekly column for SupChina from the confines of his freezing Beijing hutong.

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