Something I recall having seen on Xinhua (新华网) last year (2014) was a report of tigers being butchered on the street in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, in a town called Leizhou (雷州市). The pictures you can find if you search 雷州市宰杀老虎 (Leizhou City slaughter tigers) are particularly shocking, with the corpses of tigers being drained, before being stripped of their hide and meat. Tiger bones, organs and genitals are also used in Chinese medicine, so every part of the animal has a monetary value on the black market – and it is the black market, as tiger parts are illegal in China, which is a signatory of CITES. But as with many things in the country, it’s only illegal if it’s enforced, and to see any animal – let alone a tiger – being butchered in the street so openly is extremely disturbing.
One of the reasons I study Chinese is to attempt to understand China from the viewpoint of the Chinese themselves, rather than the Western media. The following, then, is my translation of parts of the Xinhua article that I linked above:
March 2014: The public security bureau of Zhanliang city, in Guangdong province, uncovered a case of the illegal hunting and slaughter of an endangered animal. They have just seized a slaughtered tiger, and numerous tiger products. Where did the tiger come from? How was the tiger killed? Why was the tiger killed? Why is it in Leizhou? Over the next few days, a Nanfang Daily reporter went deep into Leizhou to investigate, and to try to find the answers to those question.
The following day, the journalist learned from the Zhanliang City public security bureau that, on March 14th, the case of illegal hunting and killing of an endangered animal, had already passed through the initial investigation stage, and that Chen Mou Fei (male, 54 years old, from a township near Leizhou City) served as the leader, Chen Mou Dong (male, 32 years old, also from a township near Leizhou City) formed the backbone of a criminal gang. Huang Mo (male, 61 years old), who fell and died from the top of a building whilst being apprehended, was the group’s “butcher” specifically responsible for slaughtering tigers.
Evening of March 20th: In a booth in a restaurant in Leizhou City, a drunk local boss digs his cell phone out of his pocket, and proudly shows a photo on it to the gathered audience: it is a scene of locals butchering a tiger.
In the photo, an already disembowelled and cut up tiger is placed on a round table, and a dagger-wielding butcher is carefully removing the tiger’s skin; a few people are standing around, watching. Those in the audience in the restaurant are people from all walks of life: there is someone from a non-profit institution, there is the boss of a private enterprise, and there is someone from a government agency. But after looking at the photograph, none of them express amazement or disgust because, in Leizhou, butchering tigers is done more or less in the open.
Mr Chen is the leader of a work group in Leizhou, and he told the reporter that every time they butcher a tiger, it is for a gathering of people from the political and industrial circles. A friend of a member of the circle calls them to inform them of the time the tiger is going to be butchered, the place, in order to impress everyone. This “visual feast” of a tiger slaughter is something to brag about.
According to those in the know, the majority of tigers smuggled into Leizhou are alive. “The tigers might be anaesthetised in the road, but before they are killed the buyers want to inspect the goods, and their requirements are that the tiger is alive.”
Two years ago, a video of the Leizhou gang of tiger butchers showed that the kept tigers in a specially made metal cage; they tied an electric cable to the top of a wooden stick, which they jabbed into the mouth of the tiger. Afterwards, you couldn’t hear the sound of the tiger above the roar of the diesel generator, but could only see that, after being electrocuted for 10 seconds, the tiger collapsed like a sick cat, unable to move, and it let out an exhalation.
After electrocuting the tiger, the next step is butchering, which is a valuable skill. Usually, a local with experience of butchering tigers or cows will carry it out. The Zanjiang City Public Safety Bureau’s bulletin stated that Huang Mou, the 61 year old suspect who fell from the top of a building whilst being apprehended, and is a retired member of staff from Chen Tang Zhen food stand in Leizhou, has been killing tigers for a number of years. It is whispered amongst food stall workers that butchering a single tiger will bring in more than 1000 RMB, and when things are tight this price will increase. Huang Mou’s family did not respond to this reporter’s questions.