years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
International Forum on Chinese Legislation for the Protection and Management of Animals
Beijing March 2010
Animals Asia was pleased to be invited to attend and contribute to the development of China’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Law at an international forum in Beijing on 27 and 28 March 2010.
The development of the draft legislation is a very exciting step for animals across China and the forum brought together academics, government officials and NGOs, both within China and internationally to discuss the specific details of the proposed legislation. Providing participants with the opportunity to review the current draft and contribute to the future development before its submission to the national government later this year.
The expert drafting team is made up of law professors from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Law and has support from lawyers across the world. The forum provided an opportunity for lawyers and government officials across China to express their support. Professor Chang Jiwen, the main law drafter, opened the forum by telling delegates that the draft law had national government support and spoke of the need for animal husbandry practices in China to meet international standards for international trade in animal products.
Following the publication of the draft legislation, the drafters have come under great pressure from some people in China, who are calling for more protection for humans before animals are protected by law. However, Sun Yunming, Director of the Ministry of Science & Technology explained to the forum that if we were cruel to animals, we were also cruel to humans. The director of the China Environmental and Resource Law Research Society, Cai Shouqiu said: “Protection of animals is crucial for the development of a harmonious society, a concept supported by the Chinese President and Prime Minister”. Chen Su, Party Committee Secretary told the audience: “The protection of animals is of crucial importance and reflects upon ourselves and our society.”
The forum also provided the opportunity for international lawyers to show their support. Professor Deborah Cao of the Socio-Legal Research Centre at Griffith University in Australia called for measures to make animal owners responsible for the health and welfare of animals under their care and to provide for the basic needs of all animals “… the owner should shoulder responsibility or duty, to take care of the animals. If they do not, it is a kind of animal abuse and not in line with some of the values we hold for their freedom. We should give animals basic care – food, water – and owners should take this into consideration, or be held responsible for abuse”.
Mike Radford, Reader in Law, School of Law at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland provided an international perspective on animal protection and the development of animal-welfare science to shape protection legislation globally:
“Legislation to protect animals is not based on sentiment, but based on principle. You can look at any society and historically they have had practices of which they are ashamed and which today would seem unacceptable…. Our forefathers had an excuse – they didn't know any better. Animals were treated as things as that is how they were seen…. We need to have regards to the species and their development, adaptation and domestication and their physical and behavioural needs in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge… The difference in the last 20 or 30 years is in the evolution of animal-welfare science. Science is important as science is international. If we know about the treatment of rabbits in the UK we know about it elsewhere. Through scientific research, we have a greater understanding of the capacities of different species and the effect of human treatment upon them. The more we know, the more it changes the moral debate and our ethical duties.”
Animals Asia supports the development of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Law. We are particularly pleased to see the inclusion of measures that:
provide provincial authorities with the power to ban the slaughter and consumption of dogs and cats
ban the feeding of live prey to large predators in zoos and safari parks across China
ban the declawing and defanging practices used to brutalise performing lions, tigers and bears in wild animal parks across China
promote the identification of companion and “economic” animals through microchipping
outlaw the practices of dog-fighting and cock-fighting
address the over-breeding and abandonment of dogs and cats
prevent animal cruelty during raising, handling, transport and slaughtering of “economic” animals
Many advocates of an anti-cruelty law within China support its development in the hope of increasing trade opportunities globally in animal products. Animals Asia believes that the law can bring production, transport and slaughtering methods up to current international standards and such standards can be improved as scientific knowledge within these fields advances.
During the forum, the Animals Asia team raised a variety of issues calling for additional protection for all animals across China. While we support the draft legislation, as an anti-cruelty law it fails to cover all welfare aspects related to animals. Detailed recommendations covering all chapters of the draft legislation have been presented to the law drafting team.
Ideally we would like to see the law drafters include additional references to meeting international standards of animal production, handling, transportation and slaughtering for farm animals, and to develop appropriate licensing systems for dog breeders, animal sellers and captive-animal establishments. The need to meet international standards was a view echoed during the forum by the Chair of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Law, Mr Sun Xianzhong.
We would also like to see the draft strengthened through the inclusion of a host of other measures, some of which are listed below:
The insertion of the concept of the Five Freedoms of animal welfare as a base of reference for the legislation
The inclusion of the issue of negligence and neglect as a factor leading to animal suffering within the definition of cruelty
The development of internationally recognised health and welfare standards for individuals and organisations raising, handling, transporting and slaughtering animals
The development of species-specific codes of practice with regards the farming of “economic” animals to aid the establishment of the highest standards of husbandry;
The development of codes of practice for the welfare of dogs and cats plus codes of practice for pet shops and dog and cat breeders to ensure the health and welfare of animals
The licensing of dog breeders
A ban on the use of wild animals for photo-taking with members of the public
A ban on the use of wild animals in circus-style performances where animals are forced to exhibit behaviour contrary to their natural behaviour in the wild
The development and implementation of a licensing system for all captive-animal facilities
The development of a code of practice/standards for captive animal establishments to include provision for the five freedoms of animal welfare
Extensive recommendations to reduce the suffering and the number of laboratory animals
A need for the Veterinary Administration Department to license internationally recognised drugs for the humane treatment of all animals
A national government plan to develop and support mandatory rabies vaccination programmes for dogs across China
The process of development of animal-protection legislation may take many years before a law is enacted. In addition to the development of such legislation there is a need for the continued development of educational initiatives across China to raise awareness of the needs of animals, and additional training to improve the veterinary standards of care for all animals. The development of animal-protection legislation and laws punishing people for abusing and mistreating animals can also help to generate change within society and help people move away from traditional practices that cause animals harm and suffering.