The illegal business of transporting pet blind boxes through regular parcel shipping services has caused outrage on the Chinese internet, following the rescue of 160 kittens and puppies in the western city of Chengdu.
On May 3, one local animal rescue center in the city announced on the Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo that volunteers had spotted a truck full of mystery blind boxes by a commercial shipping office and had reported it to the authorities.
An image was later released, showing a large number of plastic boxes carrying young pets, mostly under three months old, stacked up against each other in a packed cargo carriage.
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The infuriating news soon became one of the most trending topics on Weibo — the hashtag #pet blind box# has attracted 420 million views to date as netizens flooded in to leave furious comments.
“Some people’s hearts must’ve been blinded to buy this kind of cruel blind box,” writes one user under a related post.
“The buyer, seller, platform and courier service company are all guilty. I cannot believe humans did this,” reads another.
According to Chengdu Aizhijia Animal Rescue Center who led the rescue efforts, four of the pets were found dead, while 38 of them were discovered to be sick after they were checked by local vets. The rest were safely rescued.
The courier service company involved, ZTO Express, soon issued a statement online, apologizing to the public and promising to halt the operations of the local office responsible while they undertook an inspection, as well as committing to strengthening safety measures across the company.
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This comes as several Chinese e-commerce platforms reportedly have been offering live animal blind boxes online since earlier this year. On the group-buying app Pinduoduo, several options are still available when searching the keywords “pet blind box.” The sale of live turtle and hamster blind boxes can be found on the ecommerce platform Taobao.
Blind boxes in general have become a shopping sensation in China in recent years. The total blind box market in China is estimated to reach 30 billion RMB (around 4.64 billion USD) by 2024, twice the size of the current industry, according to Mobtech.
Yet for many in the country, the extension of the craze to live animals is understandably crossing a line.
Online discussions around the legal consequences those involved in the blind box pet craze may now face have intensified on social media and come as lawmakers appear to be increasingly focusing on what has been a somewhat vague area of Chinese law to date.
On January 1 this year, animal testing was removed as a mandatory measure for foreign cosmetic brands to enter the Chinese market, and dogs were taken off the list of edible animals in April 2020. In addition, multiple proposals for improved wildlife protection were submitted by experts during the convening of the Two Sessions last year, especially in the wake of Covid-19.
However, it remains to be seen whether this incident — and the widespread outrage it has caused — will ignite more changes in the legal space for animal protection.
Cover image by Zoritsa Valova from Unsplash
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