A recent parliamentary debate, attended by MPs Rebecca Pow, Jim Shannon, and Andrea Jenkyns, was held to propose an "animal abroad bill," with the goal of allowing the British government to promote animal welfare on a global scale. This week's guest writer Anjni Thakker, will explore what discussions are being had to improve global standards, particularly in China.
What do the MPs say?
Rebecca Pow, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, addressed the potential to work with international trading partners of the UK and encourage worldwide animal welfare. She suggested that encouraging changes to wet meat markets abroad may prevent another pandemic.
Andrea Jenkyns specifically mentioned the barbaric industry of dog and cat meat in South Asia. Such trading takes place every summer, in the month of June. China’s 10-day summer solstice festival is celebrated in Yulin, alongside the consumption of dog meat. Across Asia as a whole, between ten and twenty million cats and dogs are slaughtered annually for meat.
What do people say are the main issues in China?
In China, this Yulin festivity does not uphold a longstanding cultural heritage, but rather began only a decade ago with the purpose of promoting local agriculture. However, the practice of eating cats and dogs can be traced back at least 400 years, with some Chinese folklore suggesting that consuming dog and cat meat in the summer season may bring one good luck and health.
Following the notion that the pandemic allegedly stemmed from a wet meat market, an intense spotlight has been shone on the annual event in China, with a network of protestors utilising the pandemic to encourage legislation that prohibits the eating of dog and cat meat in China.
Current legislation in China
There is no legislation that currently stands against animal abuse in China, allowing people to treat animals as they please. However, the controversy surrounding the Yulin dog meat festival has been crucial in bolstering a prospective anti-animal cruelty law. Nevertheless, the Yulin festival again took place last summer, if somewhat smaller in scale, despite the uproar of the pandemic, suggesting that not much has yet changed.
After the suspension of the sale of wildlife in February, cities such as Shenzhen and Zhuhai followed with the ban of consumption of cats and dogs, a move that has sported hope for animal activists that other Chinese cities will soon follow suit. In May 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture (MARA) took a major step by removing dogs from the list of livestock, and instead titling them as companion animals.
Any promising developments?
The RSPCA has recently begun cooperating with a group of Chinese environmental law activists to create the country's first set of legislation regarding animal protection. A draft named 'Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of the People's Republic of China' was published in 2009. It used language to emphasise notions such as animal cruelty whilst simultaneously encouraging pet ownership. It primarily criminalises the torture of animals and ill-treatment of lab animals, wildlife, and farm animals.
The draft received widespread support by animal welfare protestors, alongside members of the Chinese parliament. The National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference have also shown their support for the draft; however, the draft has not yet been passed. Nevertheless, amid rising demands for a shift in animal welfare, the Chinese government has been pressured to revise and enforce laws against animal cruelty.
The Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife proposed in early 2020 that hunting and trading wild animals for consumption were to be prohibited and those involved with trading wildlife will face punishment to a high level. However, it is still unclear how government action will translate into legislation and how fast. Animal cruelty and the domestic animal meat trade is not yet stated in Chinese legislation. The MARA's decision to regard dogs as companion animals may be a first step in this direction. The UK Prime Minister and his wife Carrie Johnson have expressed their displeasure with the domestic animal trading industry in South Asian countries explicitly and the new ‘animal abroad’ bill targets the brutality of the domestic meat trade openly. The bill also plans to ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered species, with the aim to improve the conservation status of such species.
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