(CNN)The social media post, from one of China’s largest newspapers, included a crying-laughing emoji.
It showed a dead rat after it was caught stealing rice in a shop. Spreadeagled and strung up by its limbs, it had a sign hung around its neck reading “I won’t dare do this again.”
But the almost 6,000 commenters who weighed in on the Weibo post — versions of which have gone viral on the Chinese web in recent days — weren’t finding it funny. Many wrote how they were disgusted by the display and expressed sympathy for the animal.
“You can kill (a rat), but don’t torture it,” read one comment. “Even though rats are harmful, please respect life.”
Another wrote: “Every ordinary thing has life, why torture a rat? If you were a rat, wouldn’t you find this cruel after you were killed? Stealing rice is part of a rat’s nature. It did it to survive.”
Room for progress
However, there is still a long way to go for animal rights in China, campaigners say.
The Yulin dog meat festival — during which some 10,000 canines are killed and served as food — still continues in the face of overwhelming pressure, as does bear bile farming. Chinese medicine consumers are also some of the biggest drivers of animal poaching around the world.
Lai Haiwen, who took the original photos of the rat, told CNN he doesn’t see what the fuss is about. Workers at a friend’s shop in Zhuhai, Guangdong, tied the rat up after it was caught eating rice.
“Rats should be killed, they steal food from people,” Lai said, adding that most commenters on his original Weibo post “thought it was funny.”