Thursday, 8 October 2009

Animal Welfare Legislation in China

With local media often overwhelmed with other social and environmental issues, the problem of animal welfare is one that is often overlooked.

That fact could not have been more obviously portrayed by the complete indifference of this young chap regarding the why, the where, and the how this beautiful pelt came into the hands of the street vendor.

The haggling went on for about 10 to 15 minutes. I was actually quite surprised that nobody seemed to be overly concerned that I was taking pictures. No sneaky long lens was needed - I was using a fixed focal length 35mm F1.8 - so I was almost on top of them!

The fact is, however you view the moral implications of their their transaction - it isn't illegal. I asked the Asia Representative of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for his opinion and this is what he had to say:

"In China, animal protection laws are essentially non-existent. Fighting awful situations like these is not usually possible from a legal standpoint because, for the most part, no laws are being broken. Even if the pelt you saw was a dog skin, it would likely still be legal to sell. I’m sure you’ve seen this footage:, and it’s all completely legal"

I should warn you, the footage from PETA is foul and extremely disturbing.

But the deal was eventually closed - for between US$40 to US$50 - and this pelt was on its way to decorate a young man's apartment.

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1 comment:

Chris Gelken said...

The following was received from the International Federation for Animal Welfare:

"I’ve forwarded those photos to the law enforcement agency in China. It’s not the first time to see pictures like those, selling pelts, horns or parts/products of wild animals.

You might have heard that nowadays people even use dog/cat fur to make fake tiger pelt! This is a big challenge for law enforcement.

In many cases, the pelt dealers are either faced with small fines or set free because it is difficult to prove what he sells are real (from endangered species) unless you send the pelt to expert identification bodies, but that means cost. Those enforcement agencies simply cannot afford to send every single seized item for detection or test.

He may get the pelts he’s selling from different channels: hunted the animal and skinned it by himself, bought from a hunter/middleman, bought from the market somewhere. No matter how he gets it, it’s illegal for him to sell like that.

Transactions like this are illegal at different levels. First of all, those guys carrying pelts in the crowds never registered themselves at CIA (Commerce and Industry Administration Bureau) as a legal trader, so whatever they are selling is not right. Secondly, if what they are selling a national protected animal parts or products, they are violating Wild Animal Protection Law. Once caught, will be punished and the highest penalty for that could be death sentence."