Live Animals Being Sold as Keyrings in China

Photo: Li Bo

Keyring ornaments are perhaps the most useless item you'll ever carry in your pocket or stuff in your purse -- but now, thanks to an increasingly popular item being sold in China, it can easily be the cruelest, too. For the price you might expect to pay for some kitschy trinket, Chinese street vendors are selling live animals, permanently sealed in a small plastic pouch where they can survive for a short while as someone's conversation piece. Apparently, these unimaginably inhumane keyrings are actually quite popular -- and worst of all, it's totally legal.

>> WATCH SLIDESHOW: 10 Outrageous Ways People Have Tried to Smuggle AnimalsAccording to The Global Times, these keyring accessories containing live animals are widely available and sold publicly in subway stations and on sidewalks. Potential buyers (read as animal-abusers) have the choice between a living Brazil turtle or two small kingfish, sealed in an airtight package along with some colored water. One vendor claimed that the trapped creatures "can live for months inside there" because the water contains "nutrients," though veterinarians have already disputed this claim.

"I'll hang it in my office, it looks nice and brings good luck, " said one customer who purchased the turtle.

As the cruel trinkets continue to gain in popularity, thankfully so to have the voices of animal rights supporters in opposition to the inhumane treatment of the animals they contain. "To put a living thing inside a sealed and confined space for profit is immoral and pure animal abuse," Qin Xiaona, director of the NGO Capital Animal Welfare Association, told the Global Times.

Even some right-thinking passersby are trying to do their part in saving the animals' lives where they can. "I bought one to free it. It looks so miserable," said one woman, unnamed by the Times.

Despite the fact that the selling of animals as keyring ornaments is a clear-cut case of animal cruelty, it is actually entirely within the law. Chinese law prohibits the sale of wild animals -- a designation which evidently does not apply to the Brazil turtles and kingfish being sold.

For the time being, in lieu of legislation which may or may not come to pass outlawing the sale of living creatures as objects of amusement, Xiaona suggests people use their better sense to squelch the trade. "If nobody buys it, the market will die," she says.

Sadly, it is likely that so too will the animals which have already been sealed in their colorful, transparent tombs -- gasping for the final breath of air they've been packaged with, as they peer out to a world in which their lives are considered essentially worthless. And in such a dark hour, it's hard not to believe our very humanity awaits a similar fate.

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Tags: Animals | China