Small fish, turtles and other amphibians are being sold in Beijing as mobile phone trinkets and key rings, to the chagrin of animal rights groups.
Kept in bags filled with colored, oxygenated water, the animals cost around $1.50 each.
One vendor selling the animals outside of a Beijing subway station told CNN that the bag contained crystallized oxygen and nutrients.
She said that that the animals could live for days but also warned that they should be freed from the bag as soon as the air ran out or they would suffocate.
Among the animals being sold are young Chinese soft-shell turtles – the adult turtles are a popular dish in Chinese cooking.
The live trinkets have been condemned by animal rights groups who have highlighted the lack of animal protection laws in China.
“Lack of food and diminishing oxygen concentrations within both the water and the small amount of air in these plastic pouches will cause the animals to die in a relatively short period of time after the pouches are sealed,” said David Neale, animal welfare director of Animals Asia.
“If a national animal protection law was enacted in China, such acts of cruelty could be prevented, and those who persist in causing harm and suffering to animals within their care could be prosecuted.”
Neale also warned that keeping a turtle in a bag and then as a pet could have health implications for people.
“Individuals should also be aware of the potential human health risks associated with being in close contact with animals such as turtles. Turtles frequently carry salmonella bacteria that can cause serious illness,” he said.