Friday, January 29, 2010

Not a Revolution, But a Step in the Right Direction...

Here's an interesting piece of news from China: There is currently a draft law under consideration by the Chinese government that would ban the consumption of dog meat and fine violators 15 days in jail and 5000 yuan ($735US) for individuals and 10,000 to 500,000 yuan ($1,470US to $73,529US) for businesses.

As ABC News notes:

The legislation was drafted by a team of Chinese experts who consulted with the U.S.-based International Fund for Animal Welfare and Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.... An informal online poll in the popular Chinese Web site already attracted more than 178,000 votes as of today. Some 56.8 percent voted in favor of the ban on eating dog and cat meat while 39.6 percent were against it.
Apparently, wars of words are raging over the Internet in China as we speak. "Cats and dogs are our favourite pets," wrote a Beijing resident. "They are entitled to their own rights. Why should people eat them?"

There is a very good likelihood that this law will be adopted by the government, and if it is, it will be the first animal rights law ever passed in China. That alone makes it quite a remarkable achievement.

In some parts of China, especially in the southern regions, eating dog is still popular. As China Daily notes:

Eating dog meat in China is a risky proposition, given that the country has no specific regulations regarding the production and sale of the meat, experts say.

Eating dog meat is a traditional folk custom in winter in south China's Guangdong province. Shenzhen is one of the hubs for dog-meat processing.

The current price is approximately 24 to 40 yuan ($3.5-5.8) per kg. Kennel after kennel of dogs transported from other cities are slaughtered each morning in some butcheries in the outskirts of this metropolis.

However, no specific standard has ever been created in China to guarantee the hygienic conditions of dogs raised for slaughter and their meat.

Unregulated pork, beef, and lamb sales are banned in China. However, due to the lack of regulation, the bloody slaughter of dogs cannot be legally covered.

Rabies is the only circumstance requiring quarantine for dogs. Even more dogs are slaughtered outside the standard butcheries without any official supervision.

The relevant regulations on the logistics and sale of dog meat are also nonexistent. Numerous local supermarkets and restaurants are infested with dog meat that may not be safe, experts say.

According to Yu Jie, a local medic, eating dog meat is unsafe because of parasites. Also, workers processing the meat from a rabid dog can easily become infected with rabies.

Article 28 of the Food Safety Law of the People's Republic of China says, "It is forbidden to produce or engage in the business operation of meat that has not been quarantined by the animal health inspection institution or has failed the quarantine, or meat products that have not been inspected or have failed the inspection."

"If dog meat is not quarantined before entering the market, then processing and selling it should be considered illegal," Zhu Bin, a local lawyer, was quoted as saying by Nanfang Daily.

The passage of this law would be a tremendous triumph for the animal rights movement in China. Let's keep our fingers crossed it becomes the the law of the land.

If this law is passed, the next step of the Chinese animal rights movement - and animal rights movements in other countries - ought to be to convince people that the lives of factory farm animals - cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, etc. - are just as valuable and precious as those of dogs. Human beings can more easily identify with dogs, for obvious reasons. The thought of slaughtering dogs does not sit well with most people, even in parts of the world where that sort of practice is more traditional.

But those of us who believe in animal rights have a responsibility to teach others that the lives of all animals are precious, whether they're dogs, cats, factory farm animals, animals used in lab testing, animals used for fur and leather coats, and pretty much every other animal - and human being - that exists. This proposed law in China is a huge step. Yet it is also only the beginning.

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