For the first time in Chinese history, the southeastern city of Shenzhen has declared a ban on the trade and consumption of cat and dog meat. The Humane Society International, a leading animal rights organization praised this move.
Under the new law set by the government of Shenzhen, it will be illegal to eat animals raised as pets starting on May 1. This latest ruling comes after China prohibited the consumption of wild animals following the coronavirus outbreak.
Now, the city of Shenzhen took it a step further and declared a total ban on the consumption of state-protected wild animals, other terrestrial wild animals, and captive-bred and farmed terrestrial wild species. Violators of the law will be subjected to a steep fine.
“If convicted, they will be subjected to a fine of 30 times of the wild animal’s value, if the animal is above the value of 10,000CNY ($1400 USD),” the Shenzhen authorities announced.
In a year, 30 million dogs are killed across Asia for meat, according to animal advocacy organization Humane Society International (HSI). However, as it turns out, the practice of eating dog meat in China is not that common as some people in the world might think. The majority of Chinese people say that they haven’t done so and have no desire to.
“Dogs and cats as pets have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals, and banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” said the Shenzhen city government, according to a Reuters.
The government ban, they say, “also responds to the demand and spirit of human civilization.”
Humane Society International praised the city’s move. Dr. Peter Li, the China policy specialist for the group, said: “This really could be a watershed moment in efforts to end this brutal trade that kills an estimated 10 million dogs and 4 million cats in China every year.”
It’s believed that COVID-19 originated from a wildlife market in the city of Wuhan. With the emergence of this outbreak, authorities have recognized that they need to put the wildlife industry under control to prevent another virus.
Ending the trade will not be easy, though. China has been using wild animals for food, traditional medicine, ornaments, clothing for such a long time now. The practice is deeply embedded in the nation’s culture.
This isn’t the first time that Chinese authorities have attempted to stop the wildlife trade. Back in 2003, civets (mongoose-type creatures) were banned and culled after it was found that they probably transferred SARS virus to humans. After the SARS outbreak, the selling of snakes was also briefly prohibited. But in parts of China, dishes that have this animal as an ingredient are still consumed.
This new ruling by Shenzhen might not be enough change for some, but it is a big step towards living in a kinder and cruelty-free world that views these animals as companions, not food.