China’s 2nd draft revision of wildlife protection law fails animals, the environment and humans

At first I felt optimistic about the review of China’s Wildlife Protection law – but reading the latest draft, I fear lessons haven’t been learned from the Covid19 pandemic.

I’m dismayed, for example, that the latest version of the draft law allows captive breeding of wild animals for commercial purposes for use in entertainment, fashion and medicine, to continue.

The continuation of this commercial practice will not prevent pandemics like Covid-19 happening again in future.

It also completely fails to protect the environment and animal welfare.

Wildlife as livestock

In a particularly frustrating development, the new version of Article 29 appears to prepare a path for adding wildlife species to the livestock list, step by step.

This opens a pathway for animals that are currently classified as wild animals to become simply ‘livestock’ once the number of animals in captivity has reached a certain stage and breeding techniques are matured.

These new ‘livestock’ would then be allowed to be produced for food.

Also, Article 25 no longer requires anyone engaging in the captive breeding of wildlife to apply for a permit.

Instead, they merely have to report to county-level wildlife authorities – and there’s no significant fine or punishment if breeders fail to do so.

It’s yet another reduction in regulation and enforcement in an industry that has a history of whitewashing.

I fear the floodgates will open, with an increase in the number of wild animals being bred in captivity, and the number of establishments with low animal welfare standards.

This means more animals are likely to become sick, leading to the transmission of pathogens from wildlife to humans and creating a zoonotic ‘spillover’ – something many scientists are also worried about.

Increased risk of pandemics

I  welcomed China’s emergency temporary ban on trading wild animals for meat in February 2020 in response to the outbreak of Covid-19.

But very sadly, I feel the latest version of the Wildlife Protection law is not in the same spirit.

We’ll never be able to protect the environment – or ensure our own survival – if humans don’t stop using wildlife as a resource.

I sincerely hope that everyone involved with the review of this law will hear our concerns and have renewed determination to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Everyone at ACTAsia urges the authorities in China to reconsider – and lead the way for Asia by cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade and stopping the use of wildlife for commercial purposes. 

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