BEIJING (AFP) - More than 10 tigers have been killed as "visual feasts" to entertain officials and rich businessmen in a Chinese city, state media reported.
Police in Zhanjiang in the southern province of Guangdong seized a freshly slaughtered tiger and multiple tiger products in a raid this month, said the Nanfang Daily, the mouthpiece of the provincial Communist Party.
Local officials and successful businesspeople gathered to watch the tigers being killed as "eye-openers" to show off their social stature, it said.
Video footage of a killing two years ago showed the tiger, kept in an iron cage, having an electrified iron mass prodded into its mouth with a wooden stick and passing out after being electrocuted for more than 10 seconds, the paper said.
An experienced cattle or pig slaughterer is normally hired to butcher the carcass, it said, adding that tiger bones sold for an average of 14,000 yuan (S$2,850) a kilogramme while the meat fetched 1,000 yuan a kilogramme.
Police said a butcher - who jumped to his death while trying to escape arrest in a raid - had killed more than 10 animals, the report Wednesday added.
"The tigers were probably anaesthetised for transport. But buyers would check them to make sure that they were alive before the killing," it quoted an unnamed source as saying.
Most buyers of the meat and bones were business owners who would then give them to officials as gifts, the paper said.
Tiger bones have long been an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine, supposedly for a capacity to strengthen the human body, and while they have been removed from its official ingredient list the belief persists among some.
Decades of trafficking and habitat destruction have slashed the roaming big cat's numbers from 100,000 a century ago to approximately 3,000, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species, where it is classed as endangered.