Animal welfare and rights in China
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Animal welfare and rights in the People's Republic of China is a topic of growing interest. China has limited animal protections by international standards, and animal-rights activists frequently condemn the treatment of animals in China. Movements towards animal welfare and animal rights are expanding in China, including among homegrown Chinese activists.
There are currently no nationwide laws in China that explicitly prohibit the mistreatment of animals. However, the World Animal Protection notes that some legislation protecting the welfare of animals exists in certain contexts, especially ones used in research and in zoos.
In September 2009, the first comprehensive Animal protection law of the People's Republic of China was drafted, but it hasn't made any progress as of 2013.
In more recent times, Prof. Peter J. Li suggests, many in mainland China have become relatively indifferent to animal suffering, perhaps partly because of Mao Zedong's campaigns against bourgeois sentiments, such as "sympathy for the downtrodden". Caring about animals was regarded as "counter-revolutionary". Since 1978, China has emphasized growth and avoidance of famine, which the government considers important for political stability. Local officials are evaluated based on local jobs and revenue. This, Li claims, has led to less concern for animal welfare.
Animals used for food
Livestock farming has grown exponentially in China in recent years, such that China is now "the world's biggest animal farming nation". In 1978, China collectively consumed 1/3 as much meat as the United States. By 1992 China had caught up, and by 2012, China's meat consumption was more than double that of the U.S.
A 2005-2006 survey by Prof. Peter J. Li found that many farming methods that the European Union is trying to reduce or eliminate are commonplace in China, including gestation crates, battery cages, foie gras, early weaning of cows, and clipping of ears/beaks/tails. Livestock in China may be transported over long distances, and there are currently no humane-slaughter requirements.
Controversial practices and incidents
In 2008, more than 40 animal activists in Beijing gathered to protest skinning and cooking live cats in Guangdong province. A 2010 article featuring content from Tiexue and Mop news sources showed pictures of skinned cats being submerged in boiling water.
The 2010 documentary San Hua by Guo Ke is the first to depict China's cat-meat industry. In one scene, Guo and fellow activists stop a transport truck and find "more than 300 cats crammed into cramped wooden cages, unable to move"—some missing tails and others "crushed into unconsciousness". In another scene at Fa's Cat Restaurant, Guo used a hidden camera to film cooks beating cats with a wooden stick, dumping them into a fur-removal machine, and then boiling them. The footage included a cook claiming that worse treatment of the cats improved the taste, claiming that "the blood gets into the meat and tastes delicious". 
Pictures have also circulated featuring two dogs in boiling water in China. It is claimed that this is because some Chinese prefer the taste of adrenaline-soaked meat. In some areas, dogs are beaten to death in order to release blood into the meat.
Yin Yang fish involves deep-frying fish while it is still alive. The practice has been condemned by animal-rights activists. Many chefs in Taiwan are no longer willing to prepare it, but it is popular in mainland China.In 2009, a video of diners consuming this dish went viral on YouTube and provoked an outcry from PETA.
Some food markets in China include live animals, such as live scorpions.
China farms about 10,000 Asiatic black bears for bile production—an industry worth roughly $1.6 billion per year. The bears are permanently kept in cages, and bile is extracted from cuts in their stomachs. In Jan. 2013, Animals Asia Foundation rescued six bile bears, which had broken and rotted teeth due to gnawing at their cages.
Jackie Chan and Yao Ming have publicly opposed bear farming. In 2012, over 70 Chinese celebrities took part in a petition against an IPO application by Fujian Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Co. due to the company's selling of bear-bile medicines. In 2013, the company pulled its IPO application.
China is the biggest fur-producing nation. Dr. Peter Li noted that as of 2012, fur animals are sometimes beaten to death with sticks on small farms and there were instances where animals have been skinned alive. However, he also noted that the Chinese government had been working to standardize slaughtering procedures.
In Nov. 2013, PETA released a video of a live angora rabbit in northeastern China having its fur torn off. The video received 200,000 views on China's video site Youku within a month and prompted UK retailers like Primark and Topshop to stop imports from China of products using angora wool.
In 2006, China issued the Guidelines on the Humane Treatment of Laboratory Animals. These guidelines mention, for the first time in China's formal policy and regulations, the words "animal welfare". This regulation was issued in addition to other laboratory animal-related policies in China like the 1988 Statute on the Administration of Laboratory Animals, 1997 Laboratory Animal Development Program for the Ninth Five-Year Plan, the 2005 Guidelines on Beijing Municipality on the Review of Welfare and Ethics of Laboratory Animals. Unlike the 1988 Statute on the Administration of Laboratory Animals which focuses solely on controlling the quality of the laboratory animals being tested on, the Guidelines on the Humane Treatment of Laboratory Animals officially expands into the realm of animal welfare and protection through addressing problems in procurement, husbandry, environmental conditions, experimental usage and transportation.
A particular focus that the Guidelines on the Humane Treatment of Laboratory Animals has is on animal suffering. Concerning the level of pain that laboratory animals feel during the experimental process, the Guidelines require that pain and panic be inflicted as little as possible. Pain relief medication and anesthesia must be prescribed to laboratory animals undergoing procedures like surgery and dissection. When the animal is deemed unusable for further testing, the Guidelines also require that the lives of the animals be ended humanely.
Many scientists like Jianfei Wang, the director of laboratory animal science at GlaxoSmithKline Research and Development Center in China, maintain that China has made considerable progress to work towards animal protection and welfare, especially considering that the concept of laboratory animal science did not exist in China until the late twentieth century. According to Wang, international collaboration with research institutions have brought animal welfare concepts from abroad back to China. Additionally, as China gets more involved in international trade, there are many pressures placed on China throughout the world over concerns for animal welfare and protection. For example, organizations like PETA were instrumental with stopping a shipment research primates from Chinese laboratories to Los Angeles, the U.S.'s largest port of entry for research primates. Major airlines such as Air China and China Eastern Airlines have also joined in on the global challenge of stopping laboratory tests on animals like primates and rodents. China's entry in the World Trade Organization could also be stymied if adequate progress is not made towards pressuring Chinese laboratories to follow international regulations for laboratory animal welfare.
China has also felt domestic pressures to give laboratory animals more protection. In 2007, a photo taken by Li Feng depicting captive primates in cages waiting to be tested on won prizes in the economy and science categories in the China International Press Photo Contest. Such glimpses into the conditions that laboratory animals in China are subject to have sparked outrage amongst the Chinese population and cries for further reform.
Despite foreign and domestic pressures, the country still uses, on average, about 12 to 13 million laboratory animals every year, with many being used towards making advances in drug and medical discovery. Because international research institutions and companies face strict laws regarding ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals, many of these institutions and companies look towards China as the place to outsource animal testing and as a market for buying research animals.
However, some animals are also being tested for cosmetic purposes as well. China has a $32 billion beauty market, and over 300,000 animals are thought to be used each year for required product tests. China is the only major buyer where mascaras and lotions need to be tested on animals.
In 2013, the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) relaxed its testing requirements by allowing Chinese companies to verify safety using data from overseas tests, including non-animal tests. Foreign companies are still required to perform animal testing, but Humane Society International was hopeful about further humane reforms to come.
On 30 June 2014, CFDA eliminated its requirement for animal testing of "ordinary cosmetics" like shampoos and some skin-care items as long as companies provided alternative data showing safety. This change does not extend to imported cosmetics or to "any special-use products, including hair dyes and sunblocks".
Some animal tests are likely to continue for now even on exempt products because some testers do not have the technology for alternative in vitro methods. Animal activists were excited by the announcement, and over 50 of them took to the streets of Dalian in northeastern China to celebrate, wearing bunny ears.
According to Prof. Peter J. Li, a few Chinese zoos are improving their welfare practices, but many remain "outdated", have poor conditions, use live feeding, and employ animals for performances. Safari parks have fed live sheep and poultry to lions as a spectacle for crowds.
There have been times in which public and global online outcry have prompted zoos to improve their animals' conditions voluntarily. Organizations such as the Animals Asia Foundation have frequently worked with zoos to improve housing and enrichment programs for their animals, as well as spread education to public awareness. Recent major examples including Grandview Aquarium (2016) the closing of the Hanoi Zoo Animal Circus (2016), and various campaigns backed and publicized by the Beijing Zoo.
Other animal-rights issues
In Beijing, vendors sell fish, turtles, and amphibians as key rings and mobile-phone decorations. This practice has received condemnation both within China and overseas. Animal-rights activists condemn the practice because the animals may run out of air and die quickly, and they may also pose hazards to human health.
Animal activism in China
Ideas of animal welfare and animal rights were further introduced to mainland China in the early 1990s.
China's animal-protection movement is growing, particularly among young people, especially those in urban areas and on the Internet. International NGOs played some role in igniting China's animal movement, but local groups are increasingly taking over.
China is home to 130 million dogs, mostly pets. As China becomes wealthier, more people are owning pets, which increases opposition to animal cruelty. In Apr. 2012, activists rescued 505 dogs that were headed to slaughter from a truck where they had endured harsh conditions.
Chinese activists prevented introduction of a bullfighting project in 2010 and rodeos in 2011. Activists have pre-empted a foie gras factory, ended live feeding in zoos, and rescued thousands of dogs and cats from being killed for meat. Vegetarian restaurants are increasing, though partly because of fashion rather than ethics.
A 2011 survey of about 6000 Chinese found that while about 2/3 of respondents had never previously heard of "animal welfare", 65.8% expressed at least partial support of animal-welfare laws, and more than half said they were fully or partially willing to pay more for humane animal products.
Tsinghua University professor Zhao Nanyuan argues that animal rights represents a form of Western imperialism ("foreign trash") that is "anti-humanity". He argues that animals are not sentient and therefore don't have rights. He encourages China to learn from the example of South Koreans who refused Western protests of its dog-meat traditions.
Critics have pointed out that while non-human animals are not as advanced in their needs and desires as humans, they do share some basic needs, such as food, water, shelter and companionship.
Some claim that it is contradictory for the U.S. to condemn China's mistreatment of animals while engaging in its own forms of animal cruelty. Chinese animal-welfare groups censured an American-style rodeo, as well as Jackie Chan's support for it. One Chinese commenter said of Chan: "You made a video about the protection of bears, and now you're promoting the mistreatment of cattle, it's a massive contradiction. Brother Chan, you've hurt me deeply."
- Chinese Animal Protection Network
- Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, held each June
- Dog meat in China
- Wang Yan (activist), dog rescuer
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