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Cats and dogs in the animal cruelty law

Information Times
January 27, 2010

The mainland media is buzzing with reports about a draft law on the prevention of cruelty to animals.

Judging from the critical response the draft is already generating online and in the print media, the law will not be an easy one to pass. Originally titled "Animal Protection Law," the present title was adopted after the drafters received feedback from people who felt that talk of "animal protection" and "animal welfare" was hard to accept: "They felt that it was more important right now to protect the people's welfare," said Chang Jiwen, director of the Social Law Research Department at CASS.

Article nine of the draft law was the most eye-catching part:

This reporter learned that the Cruelty to Animals law (draft for expert feedback) states that for individuals, the illegal consumption or sale of the meat of dogs or cats may result in a fine of up to 5,000 yuan, up to 15 days in prison, and a signed statement of repentance; companies or organizations can be fined between 10,000 and 500,000 yuan. Supervision will be undertaken by public security agencies, which will set up a uniform hotline and assign responsibilities to other departments.

Following the Chongqing Evening News' lead, most news outlets ran their reports under headlines like "Dog meat eaters will face up to 15 days in jail." Driven by the framing on news portals, the section on cats and dogs attracted the most animated discussion online.

Some commentators questioned whether people in northeast China, where dog meat is part of ethnic Korean cuisine, and in Guangdong, where dogs and cats are eaten for their purported medicinal properties, will submit to the eating habits of the rest of the country. Others called the law an example of the blind adoption of western ethical standards without regard for China's cultural context.

According to a poll reproduced in today's Information Times, 64% of more than 37,000 respondents to an online poll were dubious about the appropriateness and enforceability of the provisions.

However, the Oriental Morning Post reported today that initial media reports had misinterpreted the draft law by overlooking the word "illegal":

What does it mean to "the illegal consumption or sale of the meat of dogs or cats"? Chang Jiwen explained things to this paper: "The media has misunderstood. What is 'illegal consumption'? For example, if Beijing has a rule banning consumption, and other areas have their own rules, then it is illegal to consume it in those places. But in the northeast, there are many ethnic Koreans, for whom eating dog meat is a folk custom, so the northeast need not ban it, and eating dog meat would be legal." Chang said, "the Animal Cruelty Law needs local governments to issue corresponding regulations."

Chang also said that he had no plans to submit the draft as a proposal for consideration at this year's national legislative sessions. He also said that he would not be making the text public for the time being.

What's so special about cats and dogs? On the Information Times' commentary page, Wu Jiang picked apart the rules in a commentary piece titled, "Eating dog meat is no more cruel than eating pork":

As living beings, animals naturally have their own rights, so in one respect the mentality conveyed by the drafting of the Cruelty to Animals law represents civilization and progress. However, simply elevating "eating dog and cat meat" to an illegal activity is not entirely justified. Yes, food is particularly abundant these days and there's really no reason not to spare dogs and cats. In addition, I trust that there are many people, including myself, who find it impossible to imagine eating cats and dogs, and even those who might be nauseated at the thought.

However, I'm afraid that the issue of what to eat cannot be resolved by "limiting the stomachs of others by what I'm able to stomach." Even if this might be the eating habits of most people, forcing it onto the people remaining is nothing less than the "tyranny of the majority."

Eating has its cultural components; where you see eating cats and dogs as uncivilized and cruel, for people of a different ethnicity living in a different area, the thought of eating pork or beef may be nauseating and unacceptable. To truly elevate the issue to one of cruelty to animals, cats, dogs, pigs, and cows should all be treated equally. If eating cats and dogs is cruel yet pigs and cows deserve to be eaten, then such a Cruelty to Animals law really ought to be called a Cruelty to Pets law to do it justice.

In short, pigs are no more wretched than dogs, and cows are no less worthy than cats. If eating animals like cats and dogs is cruel, then the Cruelty to Animals law is itself cruel in its injustice. As I see it, although the draft law's rules barring the consumption of dog and cat meat may be an expression of humanitarianism toward animals, they are impractical and ought to be reconsidered.

Wu's essay could just as easily run under the title "Eating dog meat is no less cruel than eating pork," but that idea is probably even less appropriate for China's "national conditions," as a commentator in the Shenzhen Economic Daily put it:

Before the drafting of the national Animal Cruelty Law, a few areas have actually attempted to enact their own animal welfare protection measures. For example, Beijing once issued a draft of regulations on animal hygiene that prohibited provoking animals to fight for the purpose of gambling or entertainment, banned the use of swill as animal feed, and barred primary and secondary schools from harming or killing animals in educational experiments. But all of these regulations either came to a sudden halt or quietly disappeared. The reason is simple: to a large degree, they simply appropriated a western system that was too far ahead of the practical realities of everyday life in China. Achieving an organic connection of the technical and practical aspects of the law is surely an issue that deserves careful thought in the process of establishing an animal protection law.

In today's China, what we need is not an animal cruelty law that measures up to the world's most advanced standard. Rather, we need animal protection regulations that are appropriate to a Chinese reality and can be accepted by the general public.

As a case in point, today's English-language Global Times reports on opposition by animal rights activists to a bullfighting ring planned for suburban Beijing:

Early in 2004, the Daxing district of Beijing ditched plans to host a bullfight performance in a new, 6,400-seat bullring at Beijing's Wild Animal Park. They abandoned their plans after animal rights activists complained that bullfights had "the potential to tarnish Beijing's and China's image."
Li Xiaoxi, a professor at the Air Force Command Institute and a former member of CPPCC Beijing, helped block Daxing's plan to build a bullring. Li told the Global Times that she and other members of CPPCC Beijing are now working to block the latest project.

"We found out that local officers have different opinions on this project," Li said. "I don't understand why they still want to have a bullring when even some places in Spain are considering banning it."

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There are currently 8 Comments for Cats and dogs in the animal cruelty law .

Comments on Cats and dogs in the animal cruelty law

So, Communist China values puppys and kittens over the human fetus?

The 5000 yuan 15 day penalty is for eating/selling illegal dog/cat meat only. In another word the expert proposal is to regulate humane treatment and sanity, not outright ban.

Think about it, why wouldn't China's diverse culture and custom be a consideration when drafing laws?

anonymous, if you read the post, you'll find that it mentions the "illegal" issue; however, one of the drafters seems to imply that it is less about humane treatment than about regional customs.

As a loa wai who has lived in China for over 5 years I am not so concerned about people eating dogs or cats with impunity as much as I am the lack of protection for aniuamls on a day to day basis. Aniamls, as far as I can tell, can be tortured and killed her for fun with no punishment. There were concerns about the kitten murder videos where a young and disturbed lady squashed a kitten to death with her high heels that if she and the camera were caught no punishment would be metted out (other than posting the video online) since no animal protection laws exist.

I think People in different regions should decide on their laws. However, restaurants should be required to display the ingredients and source of their meat. People who are not accustomed to a certain food need to be aware of what they are eating, so they can make the best choice for themselves. For instance, pork makes me sick. Their should be strict rules that no one catches some one's pet and eats it. And above all we should be careful only to eat what we need not be gluttons.

Proper protection for animals would be a major step towards China becoming a civilized country.

Proper protection for animals would be a major step towards China becoming a civilized country.

Posted by: Peter Andrews | February 9, 2010 5:10 AM

???? so you saying torturing animal for entertainment such as bull fighting, rodeo show is OK. You called that civilized.

The CRUELTY of HOW animals are killed, is horror-movie material. Also how MOONBEARS lead tortured lives for bile-extraction. The motto is: DO TO OTHERS LIKE YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE DONE TO YOURSELF. COWARDS!

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