Chinese authorities get tough

Local delicacies: People enjoying a meal during a local festival in China. The NPC has adopted a draft to prohibit wildlife trade and consumption. — Reuters

LAST week, China’s top legislature – the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee – adopted a draft to prohibit the trade and consumption of wild animals and their products.

The decision has also called for severe punishments on those caught eating as well as hunting, trading, trafficking and transporting wild animals for consumption, reported state news agency Xinhua.

The move came after the country was hit by the Covid-19 outbreak which has so far claimed over 2,700 lives and infected more than 78,000 people nationwide.

There has been growing concern among people over the consumption of wild animals, which was said to have passed the pneumonia virus to humans.

Regardless if the virus came from wildlife, I think we have too many varieties of food to eat and should leave these animals in peace.

NPC’s Legislative Affairs Commission spokesperson Zang Tiewei said it was urgent to adopt the special decision at this critical moment as prevention and to control the spread of the virus, given that a comprehensive revision of China’s law on the protection of wildlife takes time.

Among those banned were protected species under the Wild Animal Protection law or other regulations, and all terrestrial wild animals including those that were artificially bred or farmed as food.

However, the definition of “wildlife” is not very clear, whether it is referring to the ones living in the wild or all kinds of animals except poultry.

It also did not mention if wild animals or wildlife products like rhino horns, bear gallbladders, seahorse or porcupine bezoars can still be used in traditional Chinese medicine.There are quite a number of eateries that serve donkey burger or soup noodle with donkey meat in Beijing.

Soon after arriving in the Chinese capital, I spotted the word lu rou (donkey meat), thinking it was just a calling card for a special dish, just like the Chinese calling lamb spine as yang xie zi (lamb scorpion) while Malaysians have our lou shu fun (rat noodle).

Last year, I decided to have a bite of “donkey burger” but I threw up after my Chinese friend told me what it was.

What I remember from that burger-eating episode was that as I chewed it, the meat was tough.With the new rules in place now, I am not sure if this donkey business will be affected.

I could also foresee other “common wildlife”, which is currently being farmed for food, disappearing from the dining tables. These could be terrapin, frogs, snake, insects and cocoons.

I hope they impose a ban on rabbit meat, too.

Rabbit head is a super popular dish in Chengdu city of Sichuan province.

Soon after the epidemic outbreak, China started cracking down on illicit hunting and exploitation of wildlife.

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration announced that they had rescued more than 39,000 wild animals and confiscated over 1,800kg of wildlife products throughout the country, as of last Wednesday.

Its deputy head Wang Weisheng said inspections were conducted on more than 350,000 markets, hotels and restaurants, as well as some 153,000 breeding sites.

From these spotchecks, they filed 690 cases of wildlife violations.

Meanwhile, the provincial and city-level officials have come up with their own guidelines on the types of “edible meat”.

In the southern Guangdong province, Shenzhen city has drafted a list of meats permitted on the dining tables. They are pork, beef, mutton, donkey, rabbits, chicken, ducks, geese, pigeons, fish and seafood of non-protected species.

“Cats and dogs are pets. It is a common understanding among civilised people that pets should not be eaten, so they fall under the restricted list, ” the Standing Committee of Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress said in a statement on its website. The two animals were given a special highlight because certain places in the province see them as food.

Although the rest of the world view the Chinese with disdain as a race that eats anything under the sun, only a small number of them do. A survey carried out by Peking University Center for Nature Society found that 97% of the people were against eating wild animals.

Some 79% of nearly 100,000 participants also said they would not use wildlife products including fur.

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