China banned the live transport of dogs and cats across provincial boundaries in 2011 without a health certificate signed by a government-approved vet at the animal’s place of origin.

Peter Li, a China policy specialist at the Humane Society International and an associate professor of East Asian politics at the University of Houston-Downtown, said that the mystery pet box phenomenon was not only a “gross inhumanity,” but also a public health risk.

“The fact that China’s surveillance system has failed to capture the illegal trade is because it looks like a normal business operation,” Dr. Li said in an email.

“Those involved in the mystery box ‘business’ are encouraging irresponsible pet ownership, irresponsible consumption habit and encouraging disrespectful behaviors toward nonhuman animals,” he said. “Shipping companies and delivery services have the duty not to handle shipment that is ethically questionable, legally liable and socially toxic.”

He added that while animal-protection groups in mainland China have been encouraging the adoption of rescue animals, the mystery-box model is a supply-driven trade, driven by breeders with too many animals who seek to lure younger customers with the promise of expensive breeds of pets at low prices.

Even among people who have bought mystery boxes of other items, but not pets, there was a recoiling at the idea of mailing animals.

Zhang Luyuan, a 33-year-old staff worker at a tourist attraction in the Chinese city of Fuzhou in Fujian Province, once indulged in blind-box purchases. “Those who buy blind boxes have a bit of wishful thinking and want to get what they want with less money,” he said by phone. But after spending $60 on a mystery box for what he thought were high-quality sport jerseys, he found subpar products inside.

“Since buying that blind box, I learned that meat pies won’t fall from the sky, and I have been buying the products the honest way,” he said, using an idiom similar to “there’s no free lunch.”

He said the delivery of living animals in mystery packages was tantamount to abuse, a lucrative way for breeders perhaps to get rid of those that are ill and unlikely to survive.

ZTO Express, the company behind both botched shipments of animals this month, could not be reached for comment. In a statement on May 4, it apologized for failing to enforce safety laws and said that it needed to “uphold correct life values.”

The company added that it would close the Chengdu delivery facility where the 160 crates were found, would cooperate with the police investigation and would enhance safety training. In another statement on Wednesday, ZTO said it had sought to regulate and reverse the delivery of live animals since May 5. The company added that the animals found in Suzhou were already being returned to their place of origin, but had been stranded at a shipment centers.

The police and postal authorities in Chengdu and Suzhou also could not immediately be reached for comment.

The backlash this month has prompted many breeders to remove their listings from popular e-commerce sites such as Pinduoduo and Taobao.

Li Ruoshui, a 19-year-old university student in Shanghai, said he had bought more than a dozen blind boxes of Harry Potter and anime figurines as gifts over the past two years.

“My sister really enjoys the surprise when opening the box, because you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said in a phone interview. “I think that’s how blind boxes stand out from other products.”

But he said that the concept of blind boxes should never be extended to living animals, and questioned whether the customers who buy pet boxes actually want to take care of the animals inside or are doing it for the novelty.

“I will never buy pet boxes,” he said. “I like small animals, and transporting them in blind boxes is very unsafe and increases the chances of their abandonment.”

Liu Yi contributed research from Beijing.

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Why Do Humans Feed So Many Animals?

The group will largely restrict itself to the last 2,000 years, but Dr. Black said some detours are irresistible, like the Tomb of the Eagles, a 5,000-year-old stone-age site in the Orkney Islands known officially as the Ibister Chambered Cairn. The cairn, or tomb, held about 16,000 human bones, and the remains of about 30 white-tailed sea eagles, Dr. Black said. “They were deposited over quite a significant period of time,” he said, “so it was people coming back, putting eagle remains in there.”

He said: “The key question that nobody has really answered at the moment is whether people went out and killed and then deposited them as a sort of an offering. There is a suggestion that they may have been pets.” If that were the case, the eagles would have probably been eating a different diet than wild eagles that were foraging at sea.

Dr. Sykes sees much of the human habit of feeding animals in the light of domestication, which she says happened as much through the process of humans feeding animals as it did through catching and corralling them to eat. That seems clear enough with our close companions, dogs and cats.

It also seems that some animals that we now eat, like chickens and rabbits, may have first come into our lives not as food, but as eaters.

And, she said, “domestication is not this thing that happened way back when, in this kind of neolithic moment where everybody got together and goes, we’re going to domesticate animals. I just don’t buy it. I think it’s something that has not only continued throughout time, but it’s really accelerating.”

Bird feeding is just one example, and that sets off warning bells for her, because domestication and extinction often go together even if the cause and effect isn’t clear.

The aurochs gave way to cattle. There are plenty of domestic cats in Britain, but just a few Scottish wildcats. Wolves are still here but not the wolves that dogs descended from. They are extinct. And modern wolves are just hanging on, while dogs might number a billion. Their future, at least in terms of numbers, is bright. As long as there are people, there will be dogs. No one knows what they will look like, and whether we will have to brush their teeth day and night, and spend a fortune on their haircuts. But they will be here.

The same cannot be said of wolves. And as wild creatures go extinct, we all lose.

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Darius, ‘World’s Longest Rabbit,’ Goes Missing

LONDON — Have you seen Darius, the world’s longest rabbit?

Four feet long and weighing 50 pounds, the heavyweight bunny should be easy to spot. But he went missing this past weekend, and now the police are involved, appealing for information about his apparent abduction from his home in a small English village.

Darius’s owner, Annette Edwards, has offered a reward of 2,000 pounds, about $2,745, for his safe return, no questions asked. She detailed his disappearance on Sunday from her home in Stoulton, England, in a post on Twitter, calling it a “very sad day.” She added that the rabbit was too old to breed now, “So please bring him back.”

A former model turned rabbit breeder who has held four world-record titles for the size of her animals, Ms. Edwards has previously sold Darius’s offspring for as much as £250 pounds each.

“It’s just so upsetting because he is such a lovable character,” she told the British newspaper The Telegraph, adding that Darius, who is largely retired from public appearances, was on a special diet for his age and would die without it.

appealing for those with information about the theft to come forward. The police say that they believe the rabbit was stolen from an enclosure in Ms. Edwards’s garden on Saturday.

Darius was crowned the world’s longest rabbit by the Guinness World Records in 2010. In a 2019 interview with the Canadian broadcaster CBC, Ms. Edwards described Darius, a type of domestic rabbit known as a Continental Giant that was historically bred for its meat and fur, as “an old man” who “can be a bit grumpy.” Still, she added, “he hasn’t lost his sparkle.”

Darius drew attention online and traveled across the country for events alongside Ms. Edwards, who often appeared with him dressed as the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit. Darius was insured for $1.6 million and traveled with a bodyguard, according to NBC’s Today show in a 2010 article.

But his reign as the world’s longest rabbit was already under threat from his own offspring, some of whom also measure over four feet long.

said of her pets in the CBC interview. “They’re a lovely creature, very gentle,” she added, describing them as “more like dogs than rabbits.”

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