Vietnamese authorities have buried thousands of cats, many apparently still alive, after they were caught being smuggled from China for restaurants.

A police officer said Wednesday that the cats were culled in accordance with the law because they posed an environmental and health risk. The officer with Hanoi's environmental police, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, confirmed that live cats were buried but was uncertain how many.

Police last week had stopped the truck carrying 3 tons of cats in cramped bamboo baskets. The truck driver, to whom the cargo belonged, was fined 7.5 million dong ($360) for smuggling the animals.

Animal rights advocates had sought to stop the cull. Vietnam banned trafficking cats and serving them at restaurants in 1998.