Legislation seeking to outlaw the eating of dog and cat meat has been presented to the Chinese government. Those who consume the meat would be jailed for up to 15 days, and there would be a fine of 5,000 yuan ($735) for individuals and 10,000 to 500,000 yuan ($1,470 to $73,529) for businesses.
This is the first time in Chinese history that an animal rights law has been proposed, according to ABC News.
The legislation was drafted by researchers in the Law Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a Chinese government think tank. They consulted with the U.S.-based International Fund for Animal Welfare and Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
A battle is growing between animal-rights activists who oppose the eating of dog and cat meat, and traditionalists who insist it is an important part of the Chinese culture.
A similar controversy has been occuring in South Korea, where opposition to eating dogs is also on the rise.
Proponents of the ban cite the inhumane way in which the dogs and cats are killed. Chang Jiwen, the researcher who was the chief drafter of the initiative, told the China Daily, “Opposition to animal abuse is the legacy of time-honored Chinese culture.”
According to the China Daily, the main opposition to the ban is from ethnic minority regions of China, which have long histories of eating dog. In Pei county of eastern Jiangsu Province, the cooking of dog meat is on the province’s cultural heritage list.
Fan Xiantao, the president of the local cultivation guild, said the eating of dogs in that area could be traced back more than 2,000 years. A commenter on the Chinese website Jinhu BBS wrote, “The petting of dogs belongs to Western culture, and we are entitled to maintain our own food habits.”
As of January 28, more than 178,000 people have voted in an online poll on Sohu, a popular Chinese website. About 57 percent of the votes support the ban while 40 percent are against it.
According to ABC News (warning: graphic image), the consumption of dog meat became popular in China “when a Chinese emperor in ancient times developed a taste for stewed dog with soft-shell turtle. At present, it is especially in demand as a hot pot dish during the winter season due to the widespread belief that eating dog meat can help one feel warmer.”
ABC News reports that dog meat is also called fragrant meat, “a euphemism that is derived from an old saying that ‘no immortal can purify his mind when the fragrance of dog meat lingers.’”
On its website, the Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong Kong-based animal welfare charity, writes that over 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are sold in China for consumption every year. The animals are slaughtered in a slow and cruel way in the belief that “torture equals taste,” according to the charity.
Those supporting the ban should not get their hopes up yet. The China Daily reported that the draft legislation is not on the agenda of the National People’s Congress, which begins its annual session in March.