A truck containing roughly 2,000 cats was intercepted by animal rights activists in China’s Jiangsu province, and stopped from reaching its alleged destination of Guangxi province, where the cats were to be sold for meat.

According to People’s Daily Online, the animals were meant to be sold “under the table,” and their flesh would be presented as rabbit meat or pork to consumers. While there are no laws in China that specifically address killing cats, dogs or other household animals for food, there is no commercial certification available for the slaughterhouses that kill them — so they are unable to operate legally.

Animal rights organizations like Last Chance for Animals have investigated China’s dog and cat slaughterhouses, and found decrepit conditions and severe mistreatment. This rescue displayed the typical treatment of animals in this underground industry —  the cats were crammed so tightly together into wooden crates they could barely move, and some were covered in cuts and scratches. As is common in the dog and cat meat industry, the rescued cats are thought to be stolen pets.

As an increasing number of Chinese citizens welcome cats and dogs into their homes as family members, public outcry against the cat and dog meat trade is on the rise, with Chinese activists protesting events like the Yulin Dog Meat festival and obstructing truckloads of animals headed for slaughter.

Police are now attempting to track down the owners of the stolen cats and return them back home.