From the extraction of bile from live bears to the keeping of endangered species such as Siberian Tigers as pets, one of which jumped from an apartment window in Shandong Province last month, it’s fair to say that animals are not treated well in China.
Chang Jiwen, deputy head of the Resources and Environment Policy Institute, part of the State Council's Development Research Centre, told chinadialogue that the frequency of such cases show relying on people’s morality isn’t working. “China needs a prevention of cruelty to animals law,” he says.
In 2009 Chang headed up a group of experts drafting just such a law. The document was submitted to the National People’s Congress, but to date there has been no response.
During this year’s assembly meetings in Beijing, calls for an anti-animal cruelty law were heard once more. Tenger, an Inner Mongolia singer and member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, put forward a proposal calling for a law to be implemented as soon as possible. In an online poll 550,000 internet users showed their support.
He Hairen, a deputy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Law, agrees with that approach. But he wants to see cruelty towards animals treated as a crime of violence – as it is a violent act, which in a sense makes it appear violence is legitimate and legal. “The state should not regard violence towards animals as beneath its concern,” he says, adding that research has shown those who are violent to animals are more likely to harm people.
An Xiang, public interest lawyer and head of the Beijing Dexiang Law Firm, said that if that amendment to the Public Security Administrations Punishments Law is made, cases of cruelty to animals would be be included on the perpetrator’s files – and this would discourage those inclined towards cruelty from acting on their impulses.
China’s political tumult, civil war and revolution put paid to these laws, and in China education has been more concerned with class struggle than the morality of looking after animals, says head of the Capital Animal Welfare Association Qin Xiaona.
She added that the lack of a law on animal cruelty has caused problems for her organisation when attempting to rescue animals, as there are no punishments even in obvious cases of cruelty.