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UPDATED: October 23, 2009 NO. 42 OCTOBER 22, 2009
Does China Need an Animal Protection Law?



On September 18, a number of Chinese law experts announced that they had drafted an animal protection act. China currently lacks a comprehensive basic law on animal protection. The underdeveloped legal system is thus unable to put all animals under effective protection. Thus, scholars suggested drafting China's first law on the protection of animal welfare, so as to cope with problems such as animal abuse and desertion in accordance with laws. The law is expected to make animal owners more responsible and thus cut the government's expense in this regard, prevent livestock breeding pollution and encourage the virtue of caring for animals.

The draft also includes a proposal to revise the Criminal Law to define the crimes of animal abuse, animal desertion and spreading video or photo messages about animal abuse.

The drafting of the animal protection act has attracted public attention since the day it was announced.

Some people believe it's absolutely necessary to punish those who abuse animals, while others believe that animal protection is something only developed countries can afford to consider.

Apart from public doubt, some legal experts have also expressed worry. If most people are still indifferent to animal abuse, they say, a single law can do little to solve the problems.

However, a survey carried out in June shows that over 80 percent of respondents support an animal protection law and over 75 percent agree that those who abuse animals to death should be criminally prosecuted.

Put humans first

Li Kejie (Procuratorial Daily): The proposed animal protection act is considerate and detailed in terms of animal welfare and rights. If all animals were treated in accordance with its stipulations, their living conditions would be better than those of people in impoverished areas.

But legislation must be based on the actual level of social development, and that includes legislation addressing animal welfare. Today, China has just started a series of basic social welfare programs and in some backward areas, even human beings' basic rights are not well ensured, so it's unrealistic to ensure animals high-level welfare at the current stage. Anyway, people should be put first in the process of social development. It's ridiculous to overemphasize animal rights while human beings are still suffering.

It is also unrealistic from a legal perspective to greatly improve animal rights before human beings' basic rights are ensured.

Yang Yuze (China Youth Daily): For animals to be empowered with certain rights, there must be some conditions: First, the rise of the middle class, who will change animals from work animals into pets and strengthen the sentimental bond between human beings and animals; second, technological progress, which will facilitate the protection of human rights and then benefit animals; third, a social consensus on the protection of animal rights. Without these three conditions, even if there is relevant legislation, it will not work.

Animal rights protection is based on a well-developed legal system, but the most important basis is a high level of economic development. The Chinese have just solved the problem of food and clothing, but many social security challenges remain striking, including employment, housing and health care. It seems unrealistic to admit and protect animal welfare and rights right now.

Besides, laws should be based on social customs and social morality. For example, residents in some areas have to deal with some animals according to local customs, even though they are otherwise animal lovers. If legal experts invent a law that makes these customs illegal, then many people will become criminals overnight.

Yang Haidong (www.china.com.cn): Animal abuse is to a large extent a behavior of those who are under huge pressure.

According to the proposed animal protection act, those who abuse animals will be held criminally accountable. It is unacceptable to deprive human beings of their basic rights for the sake of animal protection. The final goal of the animal protection law is not punishment, but to kindle people's love and care for helpless animals. The precondition is to raise the nation's moral standard on the whole, but this requires quite a long time, and a single law will not by itself raise people's morality to such a high level.

Yang Guodong (Southern Metropolis Daily): In terms of animal protection legislation, we should refrain from overemphasizing animal welfare. In accordance with laws in some Western countries, killing dogs is forbidden, and livestock are to be killed only after electrical stunning. These regulations are not only unsuitable for China's national conditions, but also perplexing. While killing dogs is forbidden, pigs and cattle can be killed. Are dogs superior to other animals? Isn't this a form of animal discrimination? Is there any difference between killing after electrical stunning and direct killing?

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