years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
The lack of welfare legislation within China is a major hurdle for organizations such as Animals Asia. Time and time again, our discussions with the Chinese authorities elicit tacit support for our stance on many welfare issues, but the authorities cannot act because they have no legal framework on which to base any action. Therefore the challenge we face is to develop the relationships with government officials, lawyers, academics and the public, to generate support for, and encourage the development of, such legislation. This is a long-term process, but one we are convinced will eventually reap rewards.
In the past 12 months political hope for animals in China has emerged. In December 2008, the University of Politics and Law in the ancient city of Xi’an organized a conference to discuss the development of animal welfare legislation.The forum was co-hosted by the university, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), RSPCA International, and the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics (OCAE).
In all, some 300 delegates attended including representatives from government departments, law societies and Chinese universities. Encouragingly, the conference marked the establishment of the Animal Protection Law Research Center at the Northwest University of Politics and Law in Shaanxi – a first for China. Following the conference, lawyers from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences led by Professor Chang Jiwen, have been in discussion with the RSPCA and IFAW, drawing up proposals for a national animal-welfare law.
A draft of these proposals was publicly launched in September. The purpose of the draft law is to realize the humane treatment of animals, prevent the abandonment or maltreatment of animals, safeguard the mental and physical health of the public and ensure public security, maintain ecological balance and social order as well as promote the export of China’s animals and animal products.
The draft law outlines guidelines for disease prevention and medical care for animals. It covers wildlife, farm animals, companion animals, lab animals and work animals, and stipulates welfare requirements for animals in transport and slaughter. In addition to the draft animal protection law a change in the China’s criminal law has been suggested that will make animal abuse a punishable offence.
The draft law will be submitted to the National People's Congress in 2010, after this it must go through the State Council and receive three readings from the National Party Congress Standing Committee before being adopted as law.
Animals Asia has responded to these proposals with our own suggestions for additional areas of animal abuse to be outlawed within this new law.
Recently there has been much discussion within the Chinese and international media with regards the possibility of the law banning the killing and eating of dogs and cats in China. As with many issues this debate is polarized. Many people in China feel that the government should not protect one species of animal over another species, others feel that people should be provided with greater protection before animals, and an increasingly large section of society support the moves to ban acts of animal cruelty such as the eating of dogs and cats. At Animals Asia we support moves to ban the consumption of dogs and cats through such legislation and we are contributing to this debate through the media, providing information with regards the inability of raising such large number of dogs and cats in a humane manner to support the demand, the health myths associated with dog and cat meat consumption and the immense cruelty suffered in raising, transporting and slaughtering dogs and cats.
In China dog meat is consumed as a tonic food, providing warmth in the winter months, as well as helping cure fatigue, low back pain, poor memory and slow digestion in older men. Interestingly, and paradoxically, in the same continent, dog meat is eaten in North and South Korea during the summer months to cool the body. Dog skin and gallstones are used to invigorate the body or heal sickness, dog penis and testes are used for impotence and lowered sex drive, and dog kidney is consumed to cure impotence and premature ejaculation. The bones of dogs are sometimes used as an alternative to tiger bone to treat rheumatism. There is no scientific evidence to support any of these claims, or other beliefs that dog meat can improve blood flow and "chi". Dog meat has been proven to be no more nutritious than that of pork or chicken.
Cat meat is eaten during the winter months in China “to warm the stomach” and delicacies include paws (stir fried with garlic), eyes, stomach and testicles. Cat meat is often eaten as an aphrodisiac, or to help cure arthritis. Recent research into rheumatoid arthritis has proven that cat meat is not effective in the treatment of this illness.
Animals Asia strongly believes in the right for all animals to a life free from suffering. Our Friends or Food? Campaign focuses’ on ending the consumption of dogs and cats, by creating empathy for dogs and cats as animals generally recognised as our “best friends”, we can develop empathy for all animals. Once people care for the welfare of cats and dogs, they are more responsive to the needs of other animals such as pigs, cows and chickens – recognising these animals as equally deserving of our help.
Arguments that a dog is no different to a chicken, a cow or even a frog, fail to address the core fact that no government in any country has devised a way of killing dogs humanely for commercial purposes. In fact, a Hong Kong Government Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Veterinary representative has stated that dogs cannot be humanely raised and slaughtered for food.
Animals Asia is opposed to measures to ‘regulate’ the trade in dog and cat meat. We believe that advocating humane methods of slaughter undermines the work of every group in Asia that has worked for decades to make the killing of dogs and cats for food illegal - Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea (it still occurs in the Philippines and South Korea to some extent - enforcement is at issue here). If we legalised "humane slaughter" it would have the potential of weakening the drive to keep dogs in these countries off the food table. A total ban on cat and dog eating is the only option.
Culture and tradition should also not be excuses for cruelty. The argument that a certain practice is historically part of a culture does not make it acceptable and this argument in itself is incongruous, as in many of the places where dogs are eaten the practice is less than a few generations old. After more than 20 years working in China, we know how fast things can change – and we know already from working with various government departments in Beijing and Sichuan Province, that there is a growing recognition and sympathy towards the issue of animal welfare which did not exist 10 years ago; and, like our Moon Bear Rescue, which is progressing as a result of good relations with the government and local community, we feel that the issue of cruelty to other animals can be similarly addressed.
Animals Asia is working with Chinese welfare organisations across the country to aid their grass-roots educational work. This is a vital first step towards mass improvement of animal welfare across the country. In 2006, we proudly hosted China’s first Companion Animal Symposium. This ground-breaking event saw 32 Chinese animal-welfare groups from across the country join together to share the many problems they face and call with one voice for new solutions to help dogs and cats in China. It is estimated that these 32 groups represented 250,000 people!
The success of the China Companion Animal Symposium continues to grow and in 2009 we held the 3rd symposium, which saw 130 delegates, representing 63 animal-welfare groups and veterinary clinics from across China once again coming together to speak with one voice for animals in China. At the end of the symposium, all representatives agreed to call on the Chinese government to ban the consumption of cats and dogs countrywide. This message is coming from within China.
SPEAKING OUT FOR ANIMALS
The development of animal welfare legislation within China still has a long way to go, but the debate is taking place within China and Animals Asia will continue to contribute to this debate and call for measures to ban the immensely cruel practices such as farming bears for their bile and the killing and eating of dogs and cats for food.
What you can do China is on the verge of developing animal-welfare legislation and now is the time to provide the support needed to the Chinese animal-welfare groups.
Animals Asia never underestimates the power of the written word, and while a single letter or email may not seem like much, the collective expression of many people's opinions can help bring about real change. I urge you to do all that you can to encourage the Chinese Government to implement comprehensive animal protection legislation to protect animals from such cruelty. Please write a polite letter to the Chinese Ambassador and send it to the main embassy address in your country. Embassy addresses can be found here:
There is a long way to go, but the wheels are in motion, and the debate is taking place within China and with your support we hope this will lead to a brighter future for all animals in China.