600 million pigs are killed in China each year. If this number represented the average sized pigs, snout to tail, they would cover the distance between London and Beijing. And that’s just pigs, never mind the countless other animals slaughtered for the meat industry.
This week’s guest writer who is located in China, will look at what legislation is in place to protect the welfare of animals in the People’s Republic.
The Overall Picture
China ranks Class E on the Animal Protection Index (API), along with Ukraine, Pakistan and Nigeria. To put this in context, Belarus and Algeria are in class F and Iran and Azerbaijan are in the bottom ranking Class G. The UK is Class B. Chinese law does not recognise animal sentience.
The majority of China’s farm animals live in horribly overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. There are laws that were brought in for public health reasons that contain some welfare provisions, such as the Animal Husbandry Law of the People’s Republic of China (amended in 2015), but these largely focus on the protection of genetic resources rather than safeguarding individual animals. As the demand for meat continues to rise, according to Peter J. Li, ‘China has embraced intensive farming with associated practices that are being restricted or banned in other countries’ such as the EU.
Following coronavirus outbreaks on European mink farms, there has been at least passing discussion on how these animals are kept in countries including Denmark and Italy – and many farms have closed for good. In China, few regulations on fur farms exist, despite it being the world’s biggest fur producer. Perversely, the closure of European mink farms may well increase the demand from China.
In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year, the National People’s Congress introduced a full ban on the trade of wildlife for the purpose of consumption.
However, wild animals continue to be used and abused in the entertainment industry, as pets and as ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine, the latter being legitimised through a permit system.
When the practice of extracting bear bile generates more than 10 billion Chinese Yuan profit every year, it comes as no shock that the practice has not yet been prohibited or any restrictions placed on how the animals are kept.
That said, in a landmark decision which came into effect at the end of 2017, China banned the domestic ivory trade(a worldwide multi-billion yuan industry). So, perhaps there is hope for the bile-bears yet.
As more and more people are choosing to keep pets, China’s Ministry of Agriculture recently reclassified dogs as ‘companion animals’ rather than livestock. Moreover, in April, 2020, the city of Shenzhen banned the sale and consumption of both cat and dog meat.
Also in 2020, the Chinese National Medical Products Administration put an end to mandatory animal tests on imported cosmetics, having already done so for domestically produced products.
So long as China fails to recognise animal sentience the future looks bleak for the way animals are kept, transported and slaughtered.
The coronavirus epidemic brought unsanitary conditions in Chinese wet markets to the world’s attention and it may be that outside pressure will result in legally sanctioned change – particularly following the in-country investigation WHO have been permitted to carry out post-epidemic. On the other hand, we’ve been here before with SARS in 2003 and the issues were forgotten as the epidemic faded.
On a more positive note, however more young people in China are recognising animal sentience and some are pushing for change. Only time will tell whether pressure from gradually changing public opinion and fear of further epidemics will prove sufficient to force new legislation.
This post is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. If you require legal advice on animal protection laws please contact firstname.lastname@example.org