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Cat meat or cat flesh, meat prepared from domestic cats for human consumption (versus a British usage referring to meat sold to cat owners in the days before packaged pet foods), is varied in its acceptability as a food source in different parts of the world. Some countries have resorted to the consumption of cat meat in desperation during wartime or poverty, including the United States, while others believe eating cat meat will bring good luck or health and have longstanding methods of preparation. A number of cultures, as well as various religions, consider the consumption of cat meat to be taboo, for hygienic or humane reasons. In response, supporters of cat meat argue that the difference between livestock and pets is subjective, and that there is no difference with eating the meat of different animals.
In most cultures, eating cat meat is considered taboo, in some cases even more than the consumption of dog meat, and it is condemned by many religions. Because cats are carnivorous, consumption of cat meat is not permissible under Jewish or Islamic dietary laws.
In Guangdong and Guangxi provinces in south-eastern China, some - especially older - people consider cat flesh a good warming food during winter months. However, in the northern China eating cat is considered unacceptable. It is estimated that around 4 million cats are eaten in China each year, and that the number is rising. However, overseas visitors are unlikely to come across downtown restaurants serving cat, which is only common out of town and in the city outskirts.
The cat's stomach and intestines may be eaten, as well as meat from the thighs, which are turned into meatballs served with soup, with the head and the rest of the animal then thrown away. In Guangdong, cat meat is a main ingredient in the traditional dish "dragon (snake), tiger (cat), phoenix (chicken)", which is said to fortify the body.
Trade in cat meat is illegal in China, according to a local animal protection lawyer,[who?] and a 2007 law requires businesses dealing in "food that is not customarily eaten in China" to obtain special authorization. Nevertheless, organized cat-collectors supply the southern restaurants with animals that often originate in Anhui and Jiangsu provinces. On 26 January 2010 China launched its first draft proposal to protect the country's animals from maltreatment including a measure to jail people, for periods up to 15 days, for eating cat or dog meat.
Cat is not a regular menu item in Peru, but is used in such dishes as fricassee and stews most abundant in two specific sites in the country: the southern town of Chincha Alta (Ica Region, Afro-Peruvian mostly) and the north-central Andean town of Huari (Ancash Region). Primarily used by Afro-Peruvians. Cat cooking techniques are demonstrated every September during the festival of Saint Efigenia in a town of La Quebrada. In Huari, cat is consumed as replacement for guinea pig, most used through all Peruvian Highlands. Huari born people are often known as mishicancas (from Ancash Quechua mishi kanka, grilled cat).
In Brazil, specifically in Rio de Janeiro, there are urban legends saying that some street-made barbecue is made of cat meat, which is called "churrasquinho de gato" (literally, cat barbecue). Such urban legends, referring to pie filling, kebabs, hamburgers, gyros, etc., are commonplace, with varying degrees of truth or ironic scorn at street vendors' quality to them.
Cat meat was consumed in the city of Gran Rosario in Argentina in the middle of the economic crisis in 1996. As citizens of Gran Rosario argued to the media, "It's not denigrating to eat cat, it keeps a child's stomach full."
Cats are eaten in certain rural Swiss cultures; the traditional recipe on farms in some regions involved cooking the cat with sprigs of thyme. In January 2004, Reuters reported that, "Swiss culinary traditions include puppies and kittens. Private consumption of cat and dog is permissible. Swiss animal welfare groups say it is hard to estimate how many pets are eaten in Switzerland every year."
Researchers have found recipes for "cat stew" and "cat in sauce" in the Basque Country in the Spanish province of Alava. Lluis Ripoll includes a medieval recipe for cooking cat in his book 'Llibre de cuina mallorquina'.
In February 2010, the food writer Beppe Bigazzi on a televised cooking show mentioned that cat stew was a "succulent" and well known dish in his home area of Valdarno, Tuscany. Later he claimed he had been joking, but added that cats used to be eaten in the area, historically; he was widely criticised in the media for his comments and ultimately dropped from the television network.
Cats were sometimes eaten as a famine food during harsh winters, poor harvests, and wartime. Cat gained notoriety as "roof rabbit" in Central Europe's hard times during and between World War I and World War II.
Indigenous Australians in the area of Alice Springs roast feral cats on an open fire. They have also developed recipes for cat stew. Some other inhabitants of the area have also taken up this custom, justified on the grounds that felines are "a serious threat to Australia's native fauna". Scientists warned that eating wild cats could expose humans to harmful bacteria and toxins.
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With the increase of cats as pets in China, opposition towards the traditional use of cats for food has grown. In June 2006, approximately 40 activists stormed the Fangji Cat Meatball Restaurant, a restaurant specializing in cat meat in Shenzhen. They managed to force the restaurant to shut down and discontinue selling of cat meat. Those changes began about two years after the formation of the Chinese Companion Animal Protection Network, a networking project of Chinese Animal Protection Network. Expanded to more than 40 member societies, CCAPN in January 2006 began organizing well-publicized protests against dog and cat eating, starting in Guangzhou, following up in more than ten other cities "with very optimal response from public." In 2008, a series of incidents were broadcast by the media on the increased consumption of cat and dog meat in Guangdong areas.
The Jewish laws of kashrut and Islamic dietary laws both forbid the consumption of cat meat. Kashrut disallows the consumption of all mammals that do not both have cloven hooves and chew the cud; as an obligate carnivore with paws, the cat fails on both accounts. Islamic jurisprudence forbids the consumption of carnivorous terrestrial animals more generally.
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