Animals Asia says bears must benefit from proposed change to China Wildlife Law

25 March 2013

Animals Asia has welcomed a draft proposal to amend China’s Wildlife Protection Law, calling for the proposed legislation to include protection of bears farmed for their bile.

With 37 deputies at China’s legislative body, the National People’s Congress (NPC), jointly proposing it, the amendment is seen as having a significant chance of becoming law in some form. Animal welfare organisation, Animals Asia, says China’s long-suffering bears must benefit.

More than 10,000 bears – mainly moon bears, but also sun bears and brown bears – are kept on Chinese bile farms. The bears are milked regularly for their bile which is used in traditional medicine.

A formal legislative proposal needs signatures of more than 30 deputies. The NPC standing committee will ensure the relevant government departments review such proposals, so they can decide if it will be listed as part of the legislative process agenda.

The China Wildlife Protection Law, as it stands, was passed in 1989 with the aim of sustaining wildlife as a resource. New amendments suggested include four main areas - an increase in the number of protected species, greater involvement allowed by NGOs and the public in wildlife protection, harsher punishment for law-breakers and stronger legal support for activists.

Animals Asia’s China External Affairs Director Toby Zhang said:

“While we will always continue to lobby for stronger protection laws, every single step taken in the right direction has to be welcomed. What is historic in this case is the widespread support from 37 deputies, that gives this the best chance possible of becoming law.”

Luo Shenglian, the NPC deputy who is the leading deputy among the 37 deputies, attended a recent workshop organised by Animals Asia, Friends of Nature, the Environment Ethic Association of China, and Hu Sheng Association (Life Protection) founded by Mang Ping who chaired the event. A total of 14 local media were invited to the workshop. Mr Luo called the current law limited and out-dated, saying it failed to meet current requirements for animal protection. He called for a step change that would see emphasis move from the use of animals to their protection.

In discussing the proposed amendment, the plight of bears on bile farms was raised as an example of how China’s Wildlife Law was failing. Huang Xinyang, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member, talked about his three-year-long efforts in CPPCC sessions calling for the ending of bear farming. He was reported as saying he’d been greatly moved by the efforts of Animals Asia and by the young people who worked so hard to help the bears and decided to make his own contribution. Organisers want to amend the existing law’s allowance of the “reasonable use of wild animals” to a ban on any commercial use.

Also in attendance were a number of high profile lawyers active in this field including He Hairen, of the Law Institute of the China Academy of Social Science and Zhang Yun, a lawyer from the Huan Zhu (Assisting Environment) Law Firm who has previously fought for disclosure of bear farming industry information from provincial authorities. Renowned professor of animal science, Wang Son, also attended.

Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson added:

“There is no higher profile victim of the limitations of the current law than China’s moon bears. In this instance alone we know the widespread support we enjoy from Chinese people. It’s encouraging that the need for change is being recognised. We are hopeful of progress that reflects both the need for increased protection, and the wishes of those who have long campaigned in this area.

“Though it can take years to establish or change a law, many people working in both animal protection and legal fields are optimistic. We believe 2013 will be a very important year in terms of protecting animals. The proposal is a good start.”