Shenzhen has become the first mainland Chinese city to ban the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat, following a move by Beijing to prohibit the wildlife trade after the coronavirus outbreak was linked to a Wuhan market selling a range of wild animals.
In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, Chinese central authorities issued a ban on the consumption of wild animals and imposed a range of restrictions on the wildlife trade ahead of an expected move later this year to strengthen the national wildlife protection law.
Meeting this week, the Shenzhen municipal congress confirmed that following the central decision the city would now be prohibiting the consumption of wild animals, and added they would be extending the ban to include the eating of dogs and cats.
A city government spokesman said at a briefing the ban was being introduced to “ensure the safety and health of the people” and was an “inevitable requirement for promoting the harmonious co-existence of man and nature”.
With regard to extending the central ban to include dogs and cats, he said that in many developed countries and regions around the world it was common practice to prohibit the consumption of pets.
Pets and their owners were “in close relationship”, he said, and prohibiting their consumption was “the requirement and embodiment of modern human civilisation.”
Under the new Shenzhen regulations, which will be effective from May 1st, the city has published a list of animals that can be legally eaten, including pigs, cattle, sheep, donkeys, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons and quails.
Any animal not on the list may not be consumed, the spokesman said, and violators would face fines or potentially criminal charges.
The Peixian Fankuai Dog Meat company posted a statement condemning the new law, claiming that banning the eating of dog meat “denies thousands of years of Chinese culinary culture” and “stands in contrast to the wishes of the broad mass of people”.
Hundreds of people posted angry comments online in response to the company’s statement.
“Pets are not food. Support the ban on dog meat!” was the most widely circulated comment.
Dog and cat meat consumption is not widespread in most of China but is still seen in certain parts of the country, including in Yulin in Guanxi, where there is an annual dog meat festival. The event has come in for widespread criticism in recent years in China.
The suspected epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic – which has infected more than one million people and killed more than 53,000 people worldwide – is the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan where live wild animals, including bats, snakes and civet cats, were slaughtered and sold.
Virologists believe the coronavirus might have originated in a horseshoe bat and jumped to an intermediary species, possibly a pangolin, and then infected a person.
Civets in a market in Guangdong province in southern China are believed to have been the intermediary host of the Sars virus that infected 8,000 people and killed 800 in 2002/3.
In the clampdown on the wildlife trade since the coronavirus outbreak, authorities said they have closed more than 20,000 wildlife farms across the country.
While the new regulations will prohibit the general consumption of wildlife, wild animals will be still be allowed for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Last month the national health commission approved the use of bear bile to treat coronavirus patients. The fluid is milked from the gall bladders of living, caged bears and the active ingredient, ursodeoxycholic acid, is used in TCM to dissolve gallstones and for other treatments.
Conservation group Animals Asia has been calling for an end to bear bile farming in China for many years, saying it is an “immensely cruel industry”. In cases where the active agent does prove effective in medicines, several synthetic alternatives to bear bile are available on the market, the group said in a statement.