(Natural News) Following suspicions that the coronavirus outbreak began due to the consumption of exotic meat, Shenzhen, a city in southern China with over 12 million people – and shares a border with Hong Kong – becomes the first Chinese city to ban the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat. This new law will come into force on May 1 of this year.
While the origin of coronavirus is still unknown, scientists suspect that it was passed onto humans from animals due to the fact that some of the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were exposed to a wildlife market in Wuhan, which sold bats, snakes, civets and other wild animals for consumption.
According to the Humane Society International (HSI), an animal advocacy group, as many as 30 million dogs are slaughtered for their meat each year across Asia. Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) estimates that China alone contributes to 10 million of these deaths. Furthermore, AAF estimates that four million cats are killed for their meat in China each year.
“Dogs and cats as pets have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals, and banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” said the Shenzhen city government, in an order posted on Wednesday. “This ban also responds to the demand and spirit of human civilization.”
HSI has praised Shenzhen’s decision. “With Shenzhen taking the historic decision to become mainland China’s first city to ban dog and cat meat consumption, this really could be a watershed moment in efforts to end this brutal trade,” said Peter Li, a China policy specialist working with HSI.
“The majority of these companion animals are stolen from people’s back yards or snatched from the streets, and are spirited away on the backs of trucks to be beaten to death in slaughterhouses and restaurants across China.”
Li further commented that while Shenzhen’s dog and cat meat trade constitutes only a small portion of the overall trade in the country, its true significance lies in the fact that Shenzhen is China’s fifth largest city. This means that its influence all over the mainland may inspire a domino effect in other provincial and city governments.
“Most people in China don’t eat dog or cat meat,” said Li, “and there is considerable opposition to the trade particularly among younger Chinese.”
Dog and cat meat consumption is declining
There’s evidence to suggest that, even without Shenzhen’s proposed legislation, the sale and consumption of dogs and cats are on the decline in many parts of China.
For example, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, one of the most infamous festivals in the world for its rampant consumption of dog meat, has been seeing a declining number of dogs being killed there since 2015. Yulin is a city of nearly six million people in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi.
In the province of Guangzhou, many restaurants are starting to close down as well due to falling demand for dog meat. “More and more people have realized the importance of protecting animals and refuse to eat dog meat,” said one Guangzhou citizen.
In 2017, thanks to an investigation conducted by AAF on the illegality of the Chinese dog trade, over 126 restaurants across China have closed down for serving illegally procured dog meat.
One survey, published in the October 2017 edition of the journal Society & Animals, found that the younger generation of Chinese in the two northern Chinese cities of Yanji and Dalian are less likely to consume dog meat than their parents and other older relatives, showing that the consumption of dog meat will most likely continue to decline.
However, the study’s authors also concluded that, without a total ban on the trade and consumption of dog meat, the practice is unlikely to disappear entirely for a long time.
Shenzhen’s ban is an extension of an existing one
China’s central government has attempted to rein in the trade and consumption of wildlife several times before. During the SARS epidemic, which killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong, Beijing put in place a temporary prohibition on illegal wildlife trade.
In early January, China made a similar pronouncement, temporarily banning the sale of wild animals “until the national epidemic situation is over.” In late February, Beijing extended this ban by making it permanent. This initiative, which was praised by animal rights activists, also included a ban on the consumption of certain wild animals.
Shenzhen’s new proposal of banning the sale and consumption of cats and dogs will be an extension of Beijing’s directives. Provinces and cities across China have been moving to enforce Beijing’s rulings or extend it to other animals not covered by the new law. Shenzhen has been the most vocal about extending this trade and consumption ban to two of the world’s most popular pets.
Shenzhen’s legislation also bans the consumption of snakes, lizards and many other wild animals. However, when the city government first proposed these new rules in late February, it also attempted to ban the consumption of turtles and frogs – both common dishes in southern China. However, the city government backtracked on this point, acknowledging that it was “a hot point of controversy.”
Animals that are legal for consumption include pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens, donkeys, rabbits, ducks, geese, pigeons and quails, among others. This ban applies to every single market, restaurant and any other shop in Shenzhen where cat and dog meat is sold.
Animal welfare groups have praised Shenzhen’s campaign to stop the consumption of wildlife. Teresa M. Telecky, vice president of the wildlife department at HSI, said that Shenzhen is the “first city in the world to take the lessons learned from this pandemic seriously and make the changes needed to avoid another pandemic.”
“People around the world are suffering the impact of this pandemic because of one thing: the wildlife trade. We urge all governments to follow suit by banning wildlife trade, transport and consumption for any purpose.”