Legislators create wildlife-free menu

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 July, 2003, 12:00am

The mainland is drafting a bill barring the sale of 1,800 species, including snakes

Fourteen central government ministries are currently working on a joint piece of legislation that will prohibit the eating of wild animals, according to Xinhua.

Among the items that may be banned from the menu are snakes. The mainland consumes at least 10,000 tonnes of snake meat a year.

An official for the China Cuisine Association said that under the new law, it would be illegal for restaurants to serve any animal not bred by humans. For those animals used in traditional Chinese medicine, breeding centres would be established instead of taking the animals from the wild.

The draft states that the animals that are currently bred in captivity by using 'mature breeding technology' can still be farmed. Under this interpretation, it will still be legal to breed partridges, turtles and ostriches, and for restaurants to serve their meat, the official said.

But this would not be the case for snake breeding, the official said. He said breeding technology for snakes was not sufficiently well developed, and although many people who sold snakes claimed they were bred in captivity, the vast majority came from the wild.

Officials are expected to ban the consumption of more than 1,800 species, including popular restaurant fare such as sparrows, monkeys, bats and tortoises.

For thousands of years the Chinese have been eating wild animals, believing them to have excellent medicinal properties. But several provincial governments have introduced legislation in recent weeks banning their consumption because many believe the Sars virus originated from wild animals.

Since then the national government has been under pressure from around the country and abroad to draw up a law to ensure that wild animals are kept off the menu.

An expert team will soon be established to appraise the technologies used in the breeding of wild animals. The team plans to publish detailed standards for the artificial breeding industry and will outline the requirements that must be met before a company can enter the market.

While many of the wild animals named in the bill are popular in restaurants, the ban on snake meat is likely to prove the most controversial. The mainland cannot meet domestic demand for snake meat and must import more than 100,000 snakes a year. The meat is particularly popular in the southern and central provinces.

Zhang Xiaoming, a Shanghai-based businessman, said that he was disappointed by the fact that he could no longer eat snake. The local authorities in Shanghai are already fining people 2,000 yuan (HK$1,890) if they are caught eating the dish, he said.

'It's a real pity that all snake dishes will be banned all across the country,' he said. 'Snakes have a lot of medicinal functions so they can be really good for you. But, most importantly, they are just delicious.'