Animal Law in China
The concept of rule of law is new to China, which has traditionally relied upon cultural and social pressure as well as executive orders from the national government to govern the conduct of its citizens. Concern for the well-being of animals has not historically been part of the Chinese culture. While some laws exist that control issues of animal health and disease control, laws that protect animals from human exploitation are very limited.
At the national level, there are two laws dealing with the wildlife issues. The first seeks to provide protection for endangered species.
The Protection of Wildlife (link)
This law exists, in significant part, because China signed the international treaty, Convention for the Protection of Endangered Species (CITES – see topic page ), and had a duty to adopt a protective domestic law for endangered species. As a result, the scope of the law is limited. It has a focus on endangered species, as identified internationally and locally. The key operative language is:
The State shall protect wildlife and the environment for its survival, and shall prohibit the illegal hunting, catching or destruction of wildlife by any unit or individual.
The sale and purchase of wildlife under special state protection or the products thereof shall be prohibited.
It is good drafting that both the acts of taking the wildlife as well as the subsequent acts of sale and purchase are both illegal, but it does not specifically address the issue of possession of an illegal item. The adopted regulations provided in the materials give more details about the consequences that follow from doing prohibited activities (link to regulations ) .
A provision not seen in Western wildlife law is:
The State shall encourage the domestication and breeding of wildlife.
In the U.S., the domestication of wild breeds is often discouraged. It usually makes it more difficult to protect animals in wild when a lawful domestic market exist for the same animal.
The other wild animal law existing in China is that which deals with fisheries:
Fisheries Law of the People's Republic of China
There does not yet exist a law to protect domestic animals from the inappropriate actions of humans (anti-cruelty laws). There is still political discussion in China about the necessity and possible scope of such protective laws. Professor Song Wei of Law of Science and Technology Institute University of Science and Technology of China has provided five case studies of recent animal related events in China which show the diversity of issues and the inability of the existing law to deal with these issues. He also points out how social attitudes about animals will also need to change before new laws can be adopted or implemented.
#1 - Bear Bile from caged Moon Bears (link)
#2 - Wolfs Escape from a Zoo (link)
#3 - Intentional Cruelty to Zoo Bears (link)
#4 - Live Food for the Tigers (link)
#5 - Water Filled Meat
A modest consideration about Chinese cultural attitudes about animal is provided in:
Traditional Chinese Culture Poses Difficulty For New Animal Welfare Laws (link)
A fairly detailed consideration of the historical role of animal in Chinese culture is provided in the article:
The Attitude Towards and Application of Animals in Traditional Chinese Culture (link)
Professor Cao has written a book to introduce the Chinese to western ideas of animal rights and animal welfare