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It’s time to outlaw animal cruelty in China

So why do some shops in our city resort instead to animal exploitation as a cheap, cruel way to lure customers?

I witnessed an example of this one recent Monday morning in Shau Kei Wan, where a group of people had gathered in front of a store. I wandered over to see what all the fuss was about only to find two large turtles sitting on the pavement.

This was no pet shop but a supplier of panelling for kitch­en cupboards and other surfaces. It sold tiles, not reptiles.

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Nearby, turtles were again the animal of choice to exploit, this time at a doctor’s office. Sitting at the bottom of a plastic bucket were two more turtles, one large, one small. Both looked sick and sad as they moved slowly around in shallow water filled with their own faeces. Surely any doctor would know this is not a healthy environment for an animal?

Dr Fiona Woodhouse, of Hong Kong’s SPCA, does. “Keeping animals in this sort of environment is problematic, causing the animal a great deal of stress even if the animal is not showing any visible signs of stress,” she says.“These animals have behavioural and social needs, they need to have things to do. Turtles can live for as long as 20 years, so what sort of quality of life does this environment provide?”

Earlier this year a shopping mall in mainland China attracted attention for doing much the same thing on a larger scale. The Grandview Mall Aquarium, in Guangzhou, dubbed by global media as the “world’s saddest zoo”, came under fire from welfare groups for displaying animals – some 500 species, including two polar bears, five walrus calves, six young beluga whales and two Arctic wolves – in barren enclosures.

Animal cruelty that shames Hong Kong

This is not an example we should be following. It is high time the Hong Kong government introduced legislation to govern – read ban – the use of live animals in shops for commercial gain.