Warning: Upsetting images

A city in China has made history by becoming the first authority in the mainland to ban the consumption and production of dog and cat meat.

For decades animal rights activists have been fighting for the Chinese Government to clamp down on the eating of pets. Many of these animals are stolen from their families and are crammed into the back of lorries for days with no food or water before being bludgeoned, stabbed, poisoned or suffocated to death.

But on Tuesday the city of Shenzhen took the ‘historic’ decision to ban the cruel practice with a new law coming into effect on May 1. The legislation also covers wild animals, meaning anyone caught breeding, eating or selling animals such as snakes and lizards could be fined up to 150,000 yuan (£17,036).

Advertisement

Advertisement

It is part of a wider clampdown on the wildlife trade since the coronavirus outbreak began in December. Scientists suspect the new disease passed from humans to animals, and some of the earliest infections were found in people exposed to markets in the central city of Wuhan, where civet cats, bats and pangolins are sold in crowded conditions.

The disease has affected more than 935,000 people around the world and has claimed some 47,000 lives.

China’s national government enforced a temporary ban on these ‘wet markets’ but Shenzhen’s permanent prohibition is a national first and is being hailed as a ‘watershed moment’ by campaigners.

For all the latest news and updates on Coronavirus, click here.

For our Coronavirus live blog click here.

Harrowing footage sent to Metro.co.uk by campaigners in January showed dogs being covered in boiling water and barbecued alive, having been forced to live in tiny cages with no regard for sanitation.

Charity No to Dog Meat said although these animals are ‘slaughtered in plain site’ a great deal of money made in the trade goes back into the black market.

China’s top legislature said in late February it was banning the trade and consumption of wild animals.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Provincial and city governments across the country have been moving to enforce the ruling but Shenzhen has been the most explicit about extending that ban to dogs and cats.

In an order posted yesterday authorities in the city said: ‘Dogs and cats as pets have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals, and banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

‘This ban also responds to the demand and spirit of human civilization.’

The law specifically sets out animals that can still be traded and eaten, including pigs, cattle, sheep, rabbits, chickens donkeys, and sea animals not already banned by other regulations.

The consumption of animals farmed for medicinal purposes has also been banned under the new legislation.

Shenzhen Center for Disease Prevention and Control official Liu Jianping said: ‘There is no evidence showing that wildlife is more nutritious than poultry and livestock.’

The city’s initial rules, first proposed in late February, appeared to ban the consumption of turtles and frogs, which are both common dishes in the south of China.

Advertisement

Local authorities acknowledged this had been a ‘hot point of controversy’ and clarified that both animals could still be eaten.

China policy specialist for animal protection charity Humane Society International Dr Peter Li said: ‘With Shenzhen taking the historic decision to become mainland China’s first city to ban dog and cat meat consumption, this really could be a watershed moment in efforts to end this brutal trade that kills an estimated 10 million dogs and 4 million cats in China every year.

‘The majority of these companion animals are stolen from people’s back yards or snatched from the streets, and are spirited away on the backs of trucks to be beaten to death in slaughterhouses and restaurants across China.

‘Shenzhen is China’s fifth largest city so although the dog meat trade is fairly small there compared with the rest of the province, its true significance is that it could inspire a domino effect with other cities following suit.

‘Most people in China don’t eat dog or cat meat, and there is considerable opposition to the trade particularly among younger Chinese.

Advertisement

‘Although World Health Organisation advice is clear that dogs and cats pose no known coronavirus threat whatsoever, it’s no surprise that attention is turning to this trade at this time because it undoubtedly poses a huge human health risk for other diseases such as rabies, as well as causing immense animal suffering.’

Dr Teresa M. Telecky, vice president of the wildlife department for Humane Society International said Shenzhen is the ‘first city in the world to take the lessons learned from this pandemic seriously’ and make the changes needed to avoid another one.

She added: ‘People around the world are suffering the impact of this pandemic because of one thing: the wildlife trade. Shenzhen’s bold steps to stop this trade and wildlife consumption is a model for governments around the world to emulate.

‘We urge all governments to follow suit by banning wildlife trade, transport and consumption for any purpose.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Coronavirus latest news and updates