High hopes for Chinese draft animal welfare legislation

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2010:


Beijing–How close to passage is the
draft Chinese animal welfare bill, completion of
which was announced with a burst of publicity in
July 2009?
“The draft law will be submitted to the
National People’s Congress by the end of the
year,” reported China Central Television on
July 7, 2009.
At year’s end, however, the draft bill
had not yet been introduced as a formal
legislative proposal. Neither were there clear
indications that it would be. But there were
continuing hints from Beijing media that the
Chinese government is encouraging activities that
help to build public opinion in favor of animal

“The Chinese draft legislation was done
by a committee of academics. It is not a
government draft. It was funded by IFAW and the
RSPCA,” cautioned ACTAsia for Animals program
director Deepashree Balaram. The committee of
academics included 18 faculty members from
leading Chinese universities, one Australian
university faculty member who is of Chinese
ancestry, IFAW Asia director Grace Ge Gabriel,
and Royal SPCA senior manager of international
programs Paul Littlefair, who produced the
English translation
Though the draft legislation might be
considered more a discussion paper than a bill
likely to be introduced in present form, it has
been publicized by Chinese state media, in terms
suggesting that the Beijing government is using
it as at least a serious test of public opinion.
“The draft must go through the State
Council and receive three readings from the
National Party Congress Standing Committee before
being adopted as law,” CCTV explained in July,
adding, “A recent survey carried out by the
Internet portal Sina.com shows 89% of more than
63,000 people surveyed support the legislation.”
Legislative proposals seldom are
presented to the public in China until they are
already close to passage, and are typically
introduced with efforts made to build at least
the appearance of consensus.
In that light, it is of note that
protests on behalf of animals have for several
years received mostly favorable coverage from
state media. There is little evident police
effort to repress animal advocacy, and animal
advocates appear to have freedom to organize.
Repeated activist rescues of hundreds of
cats from delivery to live markets are given
extensive coverage and are portrayed with
sympathy, despite involving acts of civil
disbedience. Dog purges in rural population
centers in response to rabies outbreaks, though
ordered by public officials, are by contrast
often depicted as barbaric and backward.
The draft bill was first released for
expert comment in August 2009, was later
released for public comment, and was distributed
in English translation to obtain international
perspectives in late November 2009.
“China currently has the Wildlife
Protection Law, the Animal Epidemic Prevention
Law, the Livestock Husbandry Law, the Pig
Slaughter Regulations, the Laboratory Animal
Management Regulations and other specific laws
and regulations addressing animal protection and
management,” summarizes the draft bill preface,
refuting the common western allegation that China
has no animal welfare laws at all.
Instead, explains the preface, “We lack
a comprehensive basic animal protection law, and
the animal law that exists lacks systematic
organization and is incomplete. Secondly,” the
preface acknowledges, the existing legislation
has “failed to embody the Chinese people’s moral
tradition of compassion toward living things.”
The draft bill preface admits the
difficulty, under existing Chinese law, of
punishing “acts such as abandonment or cruelty,
which jeopardize public order, to the detriment
of social harmony and stability.”
In addition, the draft bill preface
notes that existing legislation “does not fully
reflect the requirements of international animal
welfare standards as they apply to trade, making
it difficult for China to overcome the animal
welfare trade barrier established by developed
western countries.”
There are in truth few “animal welfare
trade barriers” codified in international law,
but U.S. and European Union legislation against
imports of dog and cat fur garments was adopted
in response to products that are manufactured
mainly in China.
The draft bill preface notes the rapidly
increasing cost of animal control in China,
coinciding with rapid growth of pet-keeping.
Far broader in scope than the U.S. Animal
Welfare Act and any one item of European Union
legislation, the Chinese draft bill covers all
of the Animal Welfare Act topics, adds basic
animal care and control provisions similar to
those enacted in the U.S. at the community level,
and also covers livestock care, which in the
U.S. is almost entirely unregulated in 31 of the
50 states.
U.S. federal law pertaining to livestock
only covers interstate transport and disease
transmission. State law typically exempts
standard agricultural practices, and often
punishes only abuse of livestock owned by someone
else. The Chinese draft law includes no such
“The costs for animal protection appear
quite modest and will bring the country
significant savings. Also, legislating to
protect farm animals will help guarantee food
safety,” says the Chinese draft bill preface.
Early clauses of the Chinese draft animal
welfare bill address several topics that have
received relatively little legislative attention
in the U.S., especially at the federal level.

Disaster relief

Article 19, subtitled Emergency
Management of Animals in Major Disasters,
recommends that “Each level of People’s
Government and animal shelters and rescue
organizations should set out contingency plans”
for major disasters, which should include
“appropriate arrangements for animal collection,
rescue, and epidemic prevention.”
Language of similar intent was added to
the mandate of the U.S. Federal Emergency
Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina in
2005, 68 years after then-Humane Society of
Missouri chief executive Eric Hansen recommended
in 1937 that such provisions should be added to
the Flood Control Act of 1934. FEMA itself was
not created until 1979.
China appears to have been awakened to
the need to incude animals in disaster planning
by the Sichuan earthquake of May 12, 2008,
which killed more than 12 million livestock. The
Animals Asia Foundation directed staff at the
China Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu to help
injured and displaced humans. Within 10 days,
however, the Animals Asia Foundation, the
Chongqing Small Animal Protection Association,
and the staff of a shelter called the Home of
Love were reassigned to animal rescue and rabies
Humane education
Article 20 of the draft Chinese animal
welfare bill proactively recommends that “The
State Council and People’s Governments at local
levels should engage in animal protection
campaigning and education, should popularize
animal protection knowledge, and should foster
and raise citizens’ moral standards toward animal
protection and awareness of the law. The state
encourages the development of animal protection
scientific research and activities for the public
good,” Article 20 continues, “and local
People’s Governments shall present awards to work
units, individuals, and organizations who show
outstanding achievements in these areas.”
The draft Chinese animal welfare bill
includes additional mandates for providing public
education about wildlife, farm animals,
companion animals, and zoonotic disease control.
Additional language encourages nonprofit
organizations to participate in improving public
knowledge about animal welfare.
Mandates for humane education were
incorporated into the laws of about 20 U.S.
states in the late 19th and early 20th century,
but were mostly dismantled, abandoned, or
ignored by mid-century. Efforts to revive humane
education in U.S. schools during the past several
decades have encountered intense opposition from
animal use industries.

Animal control

Article 29 of the draft Chinese bill
stipulates that, “Collecting, storing or
transporting animal specimens or pathogenic
micro-organisms or carrying out research,
education, testing, diagnosis or other
activities on pathogenic micro-organisms, should
be carried out in a manner which causes the
minimum of suffering or which avoids causing
unnecessary suffering to animals.”
This provision has no close parallel
in U.S., British, or European Union legislation
governing use of laboratory animals, which cover
animal care only outside of the parameters of
experimental procedure.
Adds Article 30, “If, in order to
control infectious and contagious diseases, it
is necessary to transport, isolate, etc.
animals, this should be carried out in a humane
manner, and animals should be prevented from
being caused unnecessary suffering.”
But Article 30 appears to pertain
primarily to control of diseases such as rabies,
Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and H5N1
avian influenza, not to laboratory procedures.
“In cases where for epidemic prevention purposes
there is a genuine need to kill animals on a
large scale,” Article 30 continues, “the county
or municipal level People’s Government shall
consult the opinions of animal epidemic
prevention experts before making the decision,
and shall make a public announcement on the
decision. An animal who has been immunized and
for whom the owner or person supervising or
managing the animal can provide a certificate of
immunization, may not be killed.”
Chinese cities have historically not had
animal control departments. Instead, low-level
public employees have been drafted to kill dogs,
poultry, or other animals whenever the numbers
of the animals at large became perceived as a
health and safety problem. The result has often
been inept and unnecessarily violent animal
capture and killing.
Article 30 requires that, “In cases
where for epidemic prevention purposes there is a
genuine need to kill animals, humane catching
and humane destruction should be performed by
police, People’s Armed Police, or other public
officials who have undergone training by a
licensed veterinarian or by an animal husbandry
and veterinary administrative department. All
killing,” says Article 30, “should be carried
out in a manner which causes the minimum of
physical and mental harm to animals. Beating,
cutting, drowning, poisoning,
non-instantaneous electrocution and other brutal
methods may not be used.”

Cosmetic surgery

Article 39 provides that, “The
alteration of the appearance of an animal,
procedures for other non-veterinary purposes,
surgery such as tail docking, ear docking,
alterations to the vocal cords [devocalization],
declawing, defanging [detoothing] etc, which
cause suffering to the animal, are prohibited,
except for particular purposes such as to protect
an animal’s physical health, to protect a
special animal or to prevent reproduction etc.”
Legislation or veterinary regulations
prohibiting some of these operations exists in
Britain, Italy, and several Australian states.
In the U.S., the state of Ohio has prohibited
devocalizing dogs since 2000, but declawing cats
is prohibited only in eight California cities.
Comprehensive laws banning all of these
procedures may not exist in any nation. Bills
that would ban any of them have been vehemently
opposed by veterinary societies wherever they
have been introduced. The California Veterinary
Medical Association in 2009 won passage of a law
which prevents cities from introducing new bans
on veterinary procedures after January 1, 2010,
if the procedures are not already banned

Zoo animals

Among the first Chinese animal issues to
attract extensive U.S. and European media notice
was the practice of feeding live prey to large
carnivores, including lions and tigers. Chinese
zoos operating as educational institutions were
enjoined from practicing live feeding in 2000,
but zoos operating as purported conservation
institutions were regulated by a different branch
of government, and were allowed to continue live
feeding on the pretext that this was preparing
endangered species for eventual return to the
Article 45 of the Chinese draft animal
welfare bill states that “during opening times
the feeding of live prey [to carnivores] is
prohibited.” Article 45 is also one of seven
different clauses in the Chinese draft animal
welfare bill that forbid using animals to fight,
either for human entertainment or for betting on
the outcome.
At least four major Chinese zoos have
been exposed since 2006 for selling wine
allegedly medicinally seasoned with tiger bone,
among other products made from body parts of zoo
animals. Several other Chinese zoos raise
wildlife, including crocodiles, for commercial
purposes. Article 48 of the draft animal welfare
bill bans these activities. However, an
exemption to Article 48 adds that, “Wild animals
under special state protection who have been
domesticated or tamed, or their limbs or organs,
may not be used [in manufacturing items for
sale]Šwithout a permit.” Lack of a clear
definition of “domesticated or tamed” could
become problematic.
Article 43 states that “Those wild
animals and their subsequent generations who have
been domesticated or trained by humans also enjoy
the legal status of wild animals.” But Article
48 could be construed as meaning that the parts
of species trained to perform, including tigers
and elephants, could be used to manufacture
items for sale, if a zoo obtained a permit to do
so. Proposed permit requirements are not
included in the draft bill.
Article 48 concludes that, “The state,
through development of new technology to produce
alternative products, will gradually eliminate
the use of wild animals in the manufacture of
traditional Chinese medicine, clothing,
cosmetics, jewelry, shampoo, fur pelts and
food, medicinal or other items. Detailed
methods shall be determined by the departments
responsible under the Ministry of Health in
accordance with their authority.”

Laying hens

China during the first decade of the 21st
century accounted for nearly half of global egg
production, despite the harm done to the Chinese
poultry industry by the H5N1 avian flu and other
disease outbreaks. Altogether, Chinese egg
production doubled in only 10 years–and Chinese
citizens now eat an average of more than 300 eggs
per year, trailing only Japan in per capita
consumption. Despite the magnitude of the
Chinese egg production boom, however, about
two-thirds of the Chinese egg supply are believed
to come from small semi-traditional producers.
Article 53 of the draft Chinese animal
welfare law appears to legislate on behalf of
both laying hens and the semi-traditional
producers, who have struggled in competition
with the introduction of factory farms, but
account for much more rural employment.
Stipulates Article 57, “The state
encourages those work units, individuals and
organizations with the requisite conditions to
engage in free-range poultry and livestock
production.” Without specifically addressing
factory egg-farming, but describing factory egg
farm practices, Article 57 adds, “The living
environment may not be kept in permanent darkness
and may not be artificially illuminated during
the animals’ rest periods.”
Article 61 would appear to prohibit
forced moults, often used in the U.S. to induce
laying hens to start a new egg-laying cycle at
times when they normally would not. The
technique involves keeping the hens on severely
restricted rations for several weeks, or even
starving them, to simulate winter scarcity.
When feeding resumes, the hens respond as if to
spring, with increased egg production.
Article 61 states that, “Abandon-ment of
and cruelty towards economic animals, through
deprivation of food and water and other means,
are prohibited.”
Article 61 also includes another of the
many prohibitions on animal fighting in the draft
Chinese law, in this context apparently to
ensure that intent to prohibit cockfighting is
not misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Article 61 adds that, “The use of sharp
implements, blunt instruments or implements
which contain sharp or blunt parts to whip or
drive economic animals, and the use of electric
shock are prohibited, except for in circumstances
where there is an immediate threat to public
This passage, as well as others in the
draft Chinese law, would prohibit bullfighting
and rodeo. The Beijing Wildlife Park built an
arena in 2004 that was to host bullfights and
rodeos, but abandoned the plan after the Beijing
Youth Daily reported that the Beijing municipal
government was considering a bill closely
paralleling the current draft national animal
welfare bill.
The Beijng municipal bill was withdrawn
soon after the Beijing Wildlife Park backed down.
Ling Peili of the Beijing legal affairs office
told Irene Wang of the South China Morning Post
that humane legislation would probably not get
priority attention for at least five years.
Incorporating all the same provisions,
in much the same language, the current draft
animal welfare law was completed almost exactly
five years later.

Ducks & geese

The authors of the draft Chinese animal
welfare law have also addressed foie gras
production methods.
A firm called Jifa Group introduced foie
gras manufacture to China in 2004. “For the past
two years we have produced about 100 tonnes of
foie gras, about two-thirds of Chinese
production, force-feeding some 200,000 geese,”
Jifa managing director Qi Mingce told Agence
France-Presse in April 2006. “Our aim,” Qi
Mingce said, “is to reach 1,000 tonnes over the
next five years, with two million geese.”
This would make Jifa the second largest
foie gras producer in the world.
Jifa in April 2006 formed a partnership
with the largest foie gras producer, Delpeyrat,
of France. The French farmers’ cooperative foie
gras producer Euralls followed Delpeyrat into
China in February 2008, buying a duck farm near
But Article 58 of the draft Chinese
animal welfare law states that “Force-feeding of
economic animals for the purposes of fattening is
prohibited, except for the treatment of animal
disease and only then with the consent of a

Pet care

The legislation of most nations, the
U.S. included, combines provisions for the care
of companion animals with the laws governing
animal care and control. The draft Chinese
animal welfare bill discusses animal care and
control primarily in the context of disease
control and prevention. Most parts of the draft
bill that deal specifically with dogs and cats
come later.
Article 65 of the draft bill accommodates
bylaws in most Chinese cities which limit the
size, breeds, and numbers of dogs who may be
kept in high-density living areas.
Article 66 in effect recommends the
formation of local humane societies: “The State
encourages residents’ committees, village
committees and [enterprise] owners’ committees to
engage in public campaigning, education and
mediation work on pet animal protection and
management, in order to strengthen the sense of
responsibility among pet owners, and to protect
and rescue stray cats and dogs, while giving
equal consideration to the interests of
non-pet-keepers so as to reduce social conflict.”
Article 69, potentially covering the
pets of 1.3 billion people, requires that “Before
dogs or cats are sold, they must undergo
compulsory immunization and neutering at the
breeding establishment.” This, if introduced as
a formal legislative proposal, would be by far
the most sweeping mandate for pet sterilization
ever advanced.
Article 87 will probably seem a bit odd
to people who are unfamiliar with the water
scarcity and water quality issues afflicting much
of China: “No work unit, individual or
organization may throw out at will the carcass of
a dead pet animal, jeopardizing public health
and safety and environmental safety. No work
unit, individual or organization may dig a grave
for the burial of the carcass of a dead pet
Pet cemeteries for the pets of nobility
existed in China in dynastic times, but burying
pets was officially discouraged during the latter
half of the 20th century. The Association for
Small Animal Protection opened the first pet
cemetery in contemporary China in 2002 on the
premises of a former pig farm. The project was
opposed by local officials as an alleged misuse
of arable land.

Lab animals

While some protection for animals used in
laboratories is included in Article 29 of the
draft Chinese animal welfare bill, most language
pertaining to lab animals comes much later.
Article 89 outlines as basic principles
that, “The state encourages the sharing of
experimental data and material domestically and
internationally, in order to reduce the numbers
of laboratory animals used; the state also
promotes alternative [replacement] experimental
methods, in order to reduce the number of
unnecessary animal experiments; and refinement
of experimental methodology, technology,
content and procedures in order to avoid causing
animals unnecessary suffering and harm. The
breeding, transport, use and disposal measures of
laboratory animals should be humane, and teasing,
harassment, abandonment of and cruelty toward
laboratory animals, and engaging in experiments
involving animal fighting are prohibited.
Adds Article 90, “Animal experiments may
not violate society’s recognized concepts of
humane ethics.”
Ensuing articles of the draft bill differ
from laboratory animal regulation in the U.S. and
Britain primarily in omitting requirements for
publication of animal use data.

Performing animals

Articles 102 through 121 of the Chinese
draft bill add specific regulations governing the
use of performing animals to those implied in
earlier clauses pertaining to wildlife and
“Animal performances should be for the
purposes of education and spreading knowledge,”
adds Article 113. “Use of cruelty toward, or
harassment or humiliation of animals in the
content of performances is prohibited.”
Prohibitions on animal fighting are restated. An
additional clause states that “The media may not
publicize or give prior notice of such animal
fighting or killing performances.” The article
continues to forbid “activities in which animals
and humans fight or wrestle.”
Article 115 asserts that, “Filmed images
of animals should illustrate in a scientific
manner the natural behavior of animals. Methods
involving cruelty or harm toward animals may not
be used in producing filmed images.”
Article 117, as well as reinforcing the
apparent prohibitions in the draft bill on
bullfighting and rodeo, would appear to prohibit
whipping race horses: “In training, sports
contests or similar activities, the use of sharp
objects such as spurs or blunt instruments to
drive or cruelly treat animals is prohibited.”
India has prohibited striking racehorses
with stiff whips since 2001. No other nations
are known to regulate whipping racehorses under
federal law.

Live skinning

Language specifically addressing the most
flagrant abuses of animals in China comes late in
the draft animal welfare bill, which appears to
have been organized according to the Confucian
principle of building consensus around points of
agreement before addressing points of potential
The state-published Beijing News in 2005
extensively exposed live skinning of dogs by some
fur sellers. The exposé was globally amplified
by animal advocates, many of whom responded in
apparent unawareness that the Chinese government
itself strongly disapproved of live skinning,
and appeared to be exposing it with intent to
stop it.
Editorialized ANIMAL PEOPLE, “Compare
the live skinning of dogs to the live skinning of
cattle at the Iowa Beef Packers slaughterhouse in
Wallula, Washington, exposed in 2000 by the
Humane Farming AssociationŠHFA obtained
affidavits from 17 Wallula slaughterhouse workers
who testified that up to 30% of the cattle they
killed were inadequately stunned. No one was
successfully prosecuted.”
Article 158 of the draft Chinese animal
welfare bill addresses both fur farm killing and
meat slaughter: “Animals may not be flayed,
scalded, dehaired, defeathered, eviscerated or
delimbed before death.”
Article 158 would also prohibit boiling
cats to death, a practice known to occur chiefly
in Guangdong.
The draft Chinese animal welfare bill
does not forbid slaughtering dogs and cats for
human consumption. But it does open the way for
this to be done, as rapidly as opponents of
eating dogs and cats can build public and
political support. States Article 162.
“People’s Governments at the provincial level may
prohibit or restrict the slaughter of dogs, cats
and other animals in their jurisdiction.”
The draft bill concludes with veterinary
regulations and rules governing trade in animals
and animal parts.
Article 165 makes clear the intent of the
framers: “The state encourages export
enterprises to adopt animal protection measures
in accordance with the legal requirements and
animal protection standards and requirements of
the importing country. The Government of the
People’s Republic of China prohibits the export
and import of animal products manufactured using
brutal methods, and prohibits the import of
animals which do not comply with China’s
requirements for the protection of the
environment, public health and ecological

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