Outrage is growing in China about a harmful new trend that sees people order “live animal mystery boxes” online.
Also known as “pet blind boxes”, the items are sold for suspiciously cheap prices on various e-commerce platforms and promoted across social media sites such as Weibo.
Customers order a box containing a mystery animal , which is then shipped to their address.
The “unboxing” is part of the fun as people have no idea what kind of creature is inside, with some filming or livestreaming the reveal for their social media followers.
Heartbreakingly, many have opened their boxes to discover a dead puppy or kitten that didn’t survive the brutal journey.
A popular food blogger with more than seven million Weibo followers used her considerable influence to slam the trend this week.
“This just makes me furious!” ‘Snack Girl’ wrote in a new post on May 4.
“I’ve seen this since about six months ago on all sorts of platforms… offered for various prices, including those of 9.9 yuan (£1.10) and 19.9 yuan (£2.20).”
Ads for the boxes typically show photos of highly sought-after dog and cat breeds (and some exotic animals like turtles), tricking the customer into thinking they’re purchasing an expensive animal for a very low price.
However they’re actually buying from unscrupulous merchants who breed hundreds of animals, often sick and malnourished, for the purpose of flogging them online.
On May 3, animal rescue workers apprehended a courier van containing more than 160 small cats and dogs in the city of Chengdu, Sichuan province.
The animals, stacked in high piles of tiny containers, were being transported via express delivery to people who had ordered mystery boxes.
Several of the poor creatures had died by the time the rescuers found them, while the survivors were taken to a local shelter to be put up for adoption.
Mystery boxes are popular among young people who enjoy the novelty of receiving a surprising package in the mail. These boxes (also popular in western countries) are often subscription-based and contain makeup or sweets.
But the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, which was particularly harshly enforced in China, saw an explosion in demands for pets from people stuck in their homes.
Last May mystery boxes containing pet snacks and products began appearing, but it wasn’t until January 2021 that high-profile social media stars began drawing attention to boxes with live animals inside.
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The pets often die en-route due to lack of air, long journeys and violent handling by transit workers, Snack Girl said in her post which has been shared by 47,000 people and liked more than 340,000 times.
If they survive the trip many die within a week of arriving at their new home due to disease.
It’s common enough that people have begun using the phrase “week dog” to describe these tragic creatures, a term that previously referred to the sick puppies sold for cheap by vendors on the side of the road.
The digitalisation of commerce means many of these sellers have simply shifted online, sending animals in the mail rather than on the street.
Many social media users are now calling for the Chinese government to introduce laws against anima cruelty, which don’t currently exist in the nation.
The animal mystery boxes do technically violate the Postal Law in China, which prohibits sending live animals in the mail.
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