Thousands of live cats destined 'for consumption' were seized in Hanoi after being smuggled from China, police said on Jan. 29. They were all reportedly buried alive, according to an animal rights group. STR/AFP/Getty Images

The thousands of cats that were seized in Northern Vietnam and destined to become cat meat were reportedly buried, as local police did not have the means to turn the cats over to other sources, nor euthanize them. An online petition was started and an appeal was sent to the Vietnamese embassy in the United States to save the cats to no avail.

“We were very sad when we received word from our contacts in Hanoi on Feb. 2,” Jordan Turner, president of Wisconsin-based animal rights group Global Conservation Group, told International Business Times Tuesday. He said he had been working with Hong Kong-based animal rights group Animals Asia Foundation and volunteers in Vietnam to follow the developments of the situation since last week. Because of law enforcement's likely inability for euthanizing, it was expected that the cats were buried alive, Turner said.

“This is an absolute tragedy, and will not be tolerated,” Hunter Shaffer, the chief investigative officer for the group told lifestyle site “The Global Conservation Group strongly condemns the actions of the Vietnamese government and will be doing everything in our power to strengthen animal protection laws and regulations to ensure this does not occur again. Their actions demonstrate poor leadership and may result in significant legal ramifications.”

Yesterday, Shaffer sent an open letter to Vietnamese ambassador Pham Quang Vin and the GCG had set up a petition on to save the cats, where it has gained over 22,000 signatures as of reporting. Turner had said that calls to the Hanoi police and Vietnamese embassies in the U.S. and the U.K. were not returned. Despite the news of the cats’ culling, Turner said that his organization will continue working with Asian animal rights group to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.

Over three tons of living cats were smuggled into Vietnam, where they were seized in the country’s north by Hanoi police last Thursday. Authorities said that the cats were bound for restaurants in Vietnam, where the consumption of cat meat – known locally as “little tiger” – had been on the rise.