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Puppies & kittens are dying as consequence of China’s favourite shopping craze — mystery boxes

In a viral video, a delivery truck can be seen carrying puppies and kittens in small boxes that are taped up. The animals appear scared and shrieking in the video.

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New Delhi: A viral video from China has exposed the dark side to the country’s obsession with ‘mystery box’. The craze sees people order a gift box without knowing what’s in it.

In the latest controversial video, a delivery truck can be seen carrying puppies and kittens in small boxes that are taped up. The animals appear scared and shrieking in the video. 

An animal rights group called Love Home took a video of this on 3 May in the Chinese city of Chengdu. During a raid, 156 boxes of puppies and kittens were found. Some of the small animals were dead. 

Images from this video have spread like wildfire across various social media platforms in China, sparking outrage against the widespread use of ‘mystery boxes’, which have steadily become China’s favourite shopping craze. The phrase ‘pet blind box’ has had millions of views on Chinese microblogging website, Weibo.

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The mystery box phenomenon

In China, consumers are lapping up ‘mystery boxes’ — a small box made without knowing the present inside the box. Typically, the gift inside the box is a collectible figurine. However, lately some users have been receiving small pets in their mystery boxes.

Ding Ying, an associate professor of marketing at Renmin University of China in Beijing, explained this phenomenon to People’s Daily, the state-run newspaper. “Compared to products with fixed returns, those with uncertainty can bring consumers greater pleasure and the emotions can last longer,” Ding said.

“The biggest difference between mystery boxes and lucky bags is that the mystery box is in a series… consumers have an inherent need for closure, thus they tend to own the whole series once they get one,” he added. 

In its initial public offering in December 2020, a mystery box maker, Pop Mart raised $676 million. The same month, People’s Daily said the mystery box industry could reach 30 billion yuan ($4.59 billion) by 2024. 

Cruelty on animals

What started as a fun shopping exercise has turned into a nightmare for animals. Even though transfer and delivery of live animals by mail is illegal in China, the authorities don’t take appropriate actions. 

“None of the supervising administrative departments has taken concrete measures to ensure the regulations on transporting living creatures are strictly followed,” a state-run newspaper said

Xinhua, another state-run newspaper said, “Treating pets as toys, the ‘pet blind box’ is a desecration of life.”

Love Home’s founder Chen Yunlian revealed in a social media post, “Vendors usually stop providing food and water a day before the departure to limit animal’s excretions.”

ZTO, the courier company that was involved in delivering these animals said that the delivery person has been suspended and his annual performance bonus has also been deducted.

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