Discussion of draft Chinese animal welfare bill ignites over eating dogs and cats
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2010:
BEIJING–Released in late 2009 to promote public discussion,
a draft Chinese animal welfare act produced by an academic committee
had by mid-February 2010 generated a media storm nationwide.
“The proposed draft will be submitted to relevant government
departments in April,” reported Deng Shasha, editor of China Daily,
the largest Chinese newspaper. “Before being adopted as a law,”
Deng Shasha explained, “the draft must go through the State Council
and then receive three readings at the National People’s Congress
Standing Committee, the top legislative authority. The draft is not
included in the legislative agenda for 2008-2013 released by the
National People’s Congress Standing Committee,” Deng Shasha
cautioned, “indicating it might be a few years before it is adopted
as a law.”
“It may be months or a year before the draft bill is actually
voted on by lawmakers, but the plan is to submit it to the
legislature and State Council by April,” elaborated Xinhua News
Agency editor Li Xianzhi. Li Xianzhi paraphrased drafting committee
chair Chang Jiwen, director of the Social Law Research Department
at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The most vocal opposition to the draft law–and the most
vocal praise for it– concerned a ban on eating dogs and cats
described by Chang Jiwen to staff of the Xinhua News Agency, China
Daily, Beijing Legal Evening News, and Global Times on January 25,
The ban on eating dogs and cats was not in the English
translation produced two months earlier by Royal SPCA senior manager
of international programs Paul Littlefair. According to the
Littlefair translation, Article 162 of the draft bill provides only
that, “People’s Governments at the provincial level may prohibit or
restrict the slaughter of dogs, cats and other animals in their
Littlefair and Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia director for the
International Fund for Animal Welfare, were members of the drafting
committee, along with one Australian academic of Chinese descent,
Chang Jiwen, and 17 other Chinese university professors.
Speaking after Chang Jiwen on January 25, China National
Native Produce & Animal By-Products Import and Export Corporation
spokesperson Shi Yufan told the assembled media that her company
supports the draft bill. “It may help remove trade barriers faced by
China’s exporters of products such as wool and feathers,” the
Beijing Legal Evening News said.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to treat animals well and
use them in the most humane way,” Shi Yufan stated. “We human
beings take too much from them,” Shi Yufan continued, “but never
learn to repay them.”
Beijing attorney Lu Junxiang, of the Dongwei Law Firm,
predicted that the draft bill would not take effect, because it
“fails to consider the people who eat dog and cat meat as a folk
Chang Jiwen “conceded that the draft will respect local
cultures, such as Korean eating habits, and may exclude them from
the ban,” wrote Li Xianzhi.
“Though most Western cultures view the consumption of dog or
cat meat as a taboo,” Li Xianshi noted, “the practice has been
considered a cultural tradition for those living in China’s southern
provinces like Guangdong and Jiangxi, as well as in northeastern
provinces neighboring the Republic of Korea and the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea.”
Elsewhere, Chang Jiwen said, “few people still eat dog or
cat meat in China.”
Informally polling more than 100,000 users, the Chinese web
portal Sohu.com found that 52% of respondents would ban eating dogs
and cats, and 48% would punish the offense–but 33% oppose such a
ban and 45% would not punish eating dogs and cats. This division of
opinion is far wider than the appearance of near-unanimity that the
Chinese government usually seeks before introducing new legislation.
Paraphrasing the Chongqing Evening News, Liu Zhen and Lucy
Hornby of Reuters noted opposition from officials in Jiangsu
province, where dogs are often eaten.
“Cooking them alive must be punished, but which meat to eat
should be people’s own choice,” asserted a commentary in the Nanjing
edition of China Daily.
Veterinarian Kati Loeffler, an IFAW consultant best known
for treating giant panda bears in China, cautioned members of the
Asian Animal Protection Network that the debate over eating dogs and
cats might sidetrack momentum toward passing the draft animal welfare
“The issue here is not whether the consumption of dog meat
should be punished,” Loeffler wrote. “The issue is the development
of a law that addresses the welfare of animals. Initiating argument
over an issue that challenges Chinese tradition will weaken public
support for the law,” Loeffler worried. “Of course I think the
slaughter of dogs is wrong, as I think about the slaughter of any
sentient creature. But the development of an animal welfare law in
China needs to focus on the issue that everyone agrees on: the need
to protect animals who are directly under the care or power of human
beings. The politics of the drafting of this law have been weak from
the start and have now slid badly sideways,” Loeffler said.
“There are still many difficulties to overcome before
legislators incorporate the article against consumption of dog and
cat meat into the draft law,” Chang Jiwen acknowledged. The Beijing
Legal Evening News reported that four months of public consultation
had generated more than 300 emails and more than 400 telephone calls
to Chang Jiwen. “Some said they cannot accept the proposals related
to ‘animal protection’ or ‘welfare for animals’ because they think
that the first priority is to protect human welfare,” Chang Jiwen
said. “The panel decided to change the name of the draft bill to Law
on Anti-cruelty to Animals,” to get around that objection.
Generating less public debate, but much concern among animal
advocates, is that the draft bill sought to incorporate whatever
animal welfare provisions and regulations existed in previous law.
This meant that some parts of the draft bill are quite detailed and
specific, sometimes in problematic ways, while others include few
specifics and leave drafting enforcement regulations until later.
As public discussion of the draft bill intensified, new
rules governing the use of laboratory animals came into effect in
Chongqing, Wang Huazhong of China Daily reported on January 28.
“Lab animals, who already have their contributions engraved
on a monument here, will be tested while under anesthetic, and not
in the presence of the same species during experimentation,
according to new rules introduced by the local science and technology
commission,” Wang Huazhong wrote. “Institutes and individuals
conducting scientific and medical research are required to follow the
management provisions for lab animals.”
The monument in honor of lab animals was dedicated by
Chongqing university researchers in 2003.
“Every year in Chongqing about 130,000 animals, including
rodents, are used in labs,” Wang Huazhong noted. “Research
institutes in Chongqing breed annually more than 170,000 animals,
including rabbits, dogs, and 50,000 mice and rats. They use 80% of
the animals for scientific and medical research. Use of lab animals
nationwide is increasing at an annual rate of 20% to 30% in the past
three years,” Wang Huazhong finished, citing Chinese Association
for Laboratory Animal Sciences data.
Unclear was whether the new Chongqing rules were introduced
separately from the provisions governing lab animals in the draft
animal welfare bill, or represent a local attempt to implement the
draft provisions before they become national law.