China's mania for mystery toy "blind boxes" has made fortunes for toymakers but social media users say the latest fad for live cats, dogs and reptiles sold in mystery boxes on e-commerce sites at low prices is a step too far.

Chinese media are reporting that 160 puppies and kittens have been rescued from a warehouse that was illegally shipping them as so-called
Chinese media are reporting that 160 puppies and kittens have been rescued from a warehouse that was illegally shipping them as so-called "blind box" gifts, disguised as regular mail, May 6 2021 (Reuters)

A craze in China for live pets sold in mystery "blind boxes" has sparked an online backlash after a courier truck full of dying puppies and kittens was discovered earlier this week.

Volunteers in the southwestern city of Chengdu found 160 baby animals packed in crates – some of which were already dead – on Monday night, according to social media posts by Chengdu Aizhijia Animal Rescue Centre.

China's mania for mystery toy "blind boxes" has made fortunes for toymakers, with a market worth of $1.14 billion (7.4 billion yuan) in 2019, according to market research firm Qianzhan Intelligence.

But social media users decried the latest fad for live cats, dogs and reptiles sold in mystery boxes on e-commerce sites at low prices as a step too far.

'Screams of puppies and kittens'

"The moment many buyers open the box hoping for a live creature, they actually find an animal that's died of suffocation, starvation, cold or heat," read one post that gained over 41,000 likes.

The user added that she had seen online listings for "very cute purebreed cats and dogs" being sold for as cheap as $1.50 (9.9 RMB).

The animal rescue centre said the animals were receiving medical treatment. It wrote in a social media post that the cargo was "full of the screams of puppies and kittens."

If the door is closed then there is no air circulation at all, so they can only be suffocated!" the centre wrote.

Delivering live animals by postal courier is illegal in China.

The courier company has apologised and said the Chengdu branch responsible for the delivery was ordered to conduct a "comprehensive self-inspection" and "postal safety training".

Law enforcement is also, reportedly, investigating the incident, Reuters said.

The Weibo hashtag "pet blind boxes" had received over 420 million views by Friday morning, with many users calling for a boycott of the products.

"Pet owners need to be responsible, and people who want to have pets must consider it carefully," wrote another user.

"This is not a 'cute' novelty, nor is it a toy that you can throw away once you're bored. Pet blind boxes make me feel that this society is even more terrifying and crazy."

A search for "pet blind boxes" on the Alibaba-owned e-commerce site Taobao Friday returned listings of live pure-bred pets for sale, but no blind boxes listings offering live animals.

Blind boxes are a popular trend across the world where consumers pay a retailer to ship them a box with a random assortment of novelty items inside. The buyer doesn't know what they're getting, such as toys or comic books.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies