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Cover Stories Series 2014> Stopping Illegal Wildlife Trade> Archives
UPDATED: April 18, 2013 NO. 16 APRIL 18, 2013
Taming the Wild Animal Law
Legislators seek balance between stewardship and protection of fauna
By Wang Hairong

The lawmakers submitting the motion also suggested establishing a wild animal protection advisory committee under central government authorities responsible for wild animal protection, and at least two thirds of the committee members should be experts in wild animal protection, ethicists, and representatives from non-governmental organizations. They expected the committee to take part in producing and adjusting the list of wild animals under state protection.

Controversy of utility

Animal rights activists have also called for changing the 1988 law's designation of wild animals as resources to be "rationally utilized," saying it contravenes the law's purpose to protect wild animals.

He Hairen, a researcher with the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the term "reasonable utilization" is ambiguous and validates commercial exploitation of wild animals.

Luo said that the current law only prohibits hunting, capturing and killing of wild animals under protection, whereas it has neglected other harms such as mistreatment, which should be prohibited by law to safeguard animal welfare.

Yang Yongjin, Executive President of the Chinese Society for Environmental Ethics, said that Chinese people should change their attitude toward wild animals. "Wild animals are part of nature and deserve our respect," Yang said.

When the current Wild Animal Protection Law went into force in March 1989, it was mainly meant to save endangered animals from extinction. Yet over more than two decades, the concept of animal protection has evolved, and animal rights activists have advanced the concept of animal welfare.

In 2012, Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., one of the largest producers of bear bile products in China, came under fire after announcing its initial public offering plan in a bid to expand production capacity.

Bear bile is believed to be effective in treating ailments of the liver and eyes, and bears have been hunted for thousands of years for this precious bodily fluid.

When bear hunting was prohibited in the 1980s, hunters turned to farming, inserting catheters into the abdomens of caged bears to extract the bile. Activists have long protested against the practice, and the government has not licensed any new "bear farms" since the 1990s.

But China still has 68 legal bear farms, which are home to over 10,000 bears, 6,000 to 8,000 of which are old and large enough to undergo bile extraction operations, according to Fang Shuting, head of the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

"We have ethical principles that human beings and nature should maintain a compatible relationship, and that animals, including experimental ones, should be strictly protected," said then Health Minister Chen Zhu last year in response to public concern over bear bile extraction.

"When humans and nature have a conflict of interests, we tend to choose the lesser of two evils," Chen said.

In response to Luo's proposal to ban "rational utilization" of wild animals, some experts including Wang said that international organizations, such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, advocate sustainable use of wild animal resources.

"Now some wild animal species have been well-protected, and can be directly captured from the wild. Some are still too few, and need to be repopulated, and some can be reasonably used," said Yan Xun, chief engineer of the Wild Animal Protection Department of the State Forestry Administration.

Email us at: wanghairong@bjreview.com

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