Shenzhen is on the verge of banning eating dogs and cats, the first city in mainland China to do so. A draft regulation is being released by the municipal government that is part of a larger push to restrict eating wild animals.
China’s National People’s Congress did something unprecedented on Monday by issuing an order to stop the consumption of wild animal meat and to restrict the wildlife trade across the nation. It is thought that those measures may become a part of the wildlife protection laws in China before the end of the year.
The Covid-19 outbreak may have prompted the ban. It is thought that wildlife sold at a Wuhan market in Hubei province earlier in December may have been the focal point of the outbreak.
The possible ban on eating dog and cat meat suggested by the Shenzhen government does not have to do with disease though, it is the social relationships that occur between humans and their pets. They have called it the “consensus of all human civilization.”
“Shenzhen might just be able to do it, as it is a progressive city in many ways,” said a professor at Griffith University in Australia.
Expert on animal protection in China Deborah Cao agreed, “I really hope so.”
Shenzhen’s home province of Guangdong, neighbouring Guangxi, and parts of north-east China are known for their consumption of dog and cat meat. It isn’t something that is practiced across the country universally, and, over time, it has become less accepted. In 2017, Taiwan issued orders to outlaw consuming dog and cat meat.
“Dog eating has become increasingly controversial in China, with frequent violent clashes between dog thieves and angry dog owners,” said Wendy Higgins, director of international media at Humane Society International (HSI).
“There is a growing and vocal Chinese opposition to the dog and cat meat trade, and young people in China are far more likely to think of dogs as companions than cuisine,” she said.
The regulation is still in a public comment phase until March 5, and it is not sure when the final determination will be made.
If the ban does become law, other animals that could potentially carry disease, including snakes, turtles, insects, and some birds, may also make it on the list of animals not to be consumed. Those prohibitions will fall in line with national rules that may occur within the coming months.
If the Shenzhen ban is put into place, restaurants who go against it by serving animals on the list can receive fines of 20,000 to 200,000 yuan ($2,800-$28,000).
“The vast majority of dogs caught up in the trade in China are stolen pets and strays snatched from the streets,” Higgins said. “After being stolen or snatched, the animals are crammed in small cages in their hundreds, unable to move, and piled on the back of trucks, packed so tightly they can break limbs.”
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