Animal rights bill aims to curb abuse at shows

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 August, 2010, 12:00am

A draft animal rights protection law, including a ban on the abuse of performing animals, has been submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Dr Chang Jiwen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who has spearheaded the drafting of animal welfare legislation for 11 years, said he submitted the document after it was posted online for public consultation.

Chang told the Legal Daily that the draft had met with 'unanimous support' from the international community and was also backed by most mainlanders.

'Eighty per cent of internet users who participated in polls by and voted for anti-animal-abuse legislation and 75 per cent of them proposed making it a criminal offence to abuse animals and cause death. The rate is unusually high,' he said.

Chang said the State Forestry Administration had followed the drafting of the law closely and several officials from its legislation department had participated in seminars on the draft.

The administration issued a directive last week banning performances considered too cruel to animals or which enabled direct contact with people.

Many zoos and circuses have stopped performances ranging from dancing goats to tigers jumping through rings of fire. The Beijing Zoo has scrapped a popular programme which saw visitors pay to get a picture with an orangutan, and a zoo in Zhejiang stopped allowing visitors to have their photograph taken with a tiger.

Chang welcomed the directive and said it 'had many points in common with our draft law'.

Article 39 of Chang's draft prohibits putting sick, weak, old or otherwise unsuitable animals on show, in performances, sports competitions or similar jobs. Forcing animals to work or perform by violent means such as kicking or whipping them would be banned and shows involving live animals being thrown to carnivores would also be prohibited.

The proposed law follows government culls of stray dogs across the mainland to combat rabies that have attracted growing attention in recent years. Online video clips showing the torture of animals - the most infamous being a woman stabbing a cat with her high-heeled shoe - have also stirred widespread anger.

In the south, dogs and cats remain a culinary delicacy. Ten million dogs and four million cats are sold on the mainland for human consumption every year, according to a survey in 2006 carried out by the Animals Asia Foundation.

Liao Yumin, animal rescue head at the Association for Small Animal Protection Beijing, a non-government organisation, said the draft was an important step closer to getting legislation that would protect animals, even though he did not want to pin his hopes on early passage by the NPC.

Liao said the law has been brewing for many years but it involved too many sides and changes to other laws. 'We frontline animal protection people have learned to do things little by little regardless of whether there is a law or not,' he said. 'I don't dare to estimate and I can't estimate when the draft will be officially sent for the congress for a reading, but we can still do some work.'

But Liao admitted that without a law on animal protection, it was very difficult for them to carry out the work, even at the community level.

'We know in the neighbourhood some are torturing cats but when we try to stop them and they do not listen, there is nothing we can do about it,' he said.