Following the massive backlash over its notorious Yulin Dog-Meat Eating Festival, which sees over 10,000 dogs butchered and consumed every year, the Chinese government has introduced a new law to protect certain animals from winding up on people’s dinner tables.
The legislation, approved earlier this month, restricts the production and sale of food made from state-protected wild animals. However, everything else — like captive breeding and consumption in non-food products, for instance — seems completely acceptable.
“This is in line with China's actual conditions and internationally accepted practices,” said Yue Zhongming, vice head of an office for economic law under the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission.
Activists have voiced their concerns regarding the giant loopholes in the long-awaited provision, which might be a step forward in improving China’s less-than-stellar animal rights record, but has created bit of a gray area for endangered species. Sales and purchase of exotic animals is allowed as long as authorities grant permission.
“The law has always been there, but the interpretation has cleared up the ambiguity,” said Cheryl Lo, a spokesperson for the World Wide Fund for Nature. “Now it is clear that consumers have to bear responsibility. But we still have to watch if they will actually enforce and execute on the legislation.”
Certain animals are used in traditional Chinese medicine, including rhino horns and bear innards.
“We have lobbied against the selling of shark fin in Hong Kong for a long time with no results,” Lo added. “Last year, mainland China announced a ban on sharks fin at official banquets and Hong Kong also banned shark fin, bluefin tuna and black moss at official functions. Then China decided to destroy confiscated ivory and Hong Kong will follow next month. So I do see a trend of stepping up efforts to protect species in the region.”
On the other hand, the new law also regulates the release of captive animals to the wild.