Shenzhen has become the first city in mainland China to ban the consumption of dog and cat meat, marking one of the biggest wins yet in the global battle to end the dog meat trade.
This is China’s fifth largest city. Although not itself a major center for dog and cat meat consumption, Shenzhen is located in the Guangdong province where the dog and cat meat trade is widespread. A ban here is a powerful affirmation of changing Chinese attitudes toward eating companion animals.
Dogs and cats are not in any way associated with the coronavirus pandemic. But officials in Shenzhen say they decided to include them in a proposed law banning the wildlife trade introduced in February in the wake of the pandemic because of the special status companion animals have in Chinese hearts and homes.
A spokesman for the city legislature cited bans on eating dogs, cats and other pets in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan, adding that the ban “also responds to the demand and spirit of human civilization.”
A majority of companion animals who end up in the dog meat trade in China are pets, stolen from people’s backyards or snatched from the streets. They are then packed into trucks, destined for slaughterhouses and restaurants where they are beaten to death.
The new law in Shenzhen, which will take effect on May 1, will end the sale of cats and dogs for human consumption in restaurants and stores throughout the city. It will also ban the sale of live cats and dogs for consumption in the city’s markets.
The law also covers the consumption, breeding and sale of wildlife such as snakes, lizards and other wild animals for human consumption. Those in violation could face heavy fines of up 200,000 yuan (about $28,000).
This is especially heartening news for us at the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. Ending the global dog and cat meat trade is a priority for us and we are fighting it in several countries where it exists, including South Korea and Indonesia. In China, where an estimated 10 million dogs and four million cats are killed for food each year, we are working alongside local activists to end the trade and raise awareness about the cruelty inherent in it. For the past several years, we have turned the media spotlight on this issue in China and also highlighted the globally condemned annual Yulin dog meat festival where thousands of dogs and cats are brutally slaughtered for food.
The growing animal protection movement in China over the past four decades and the hard work of China’s animal protectionists has also helped create a radical change in attitudes over dog and cat meat consumption, and it no doubt influenced authorities in Shenzhen when they considered and passed their ban.
Most Chinese do not eat dog and cat meat. In a nationwide survey sponsored by HSI in 2016, 70% of respondents said they had never eaten dog meat. A significant number of those who answered “yes” had eaten it by accident or had only eaten it once or twice.
The ban in Shenzhen is the strongest sign yet that this trade is on its way out, and we applaud city officials for acting swiftly to pass it. We also hope that more cities and provinces in China will follow Shenzhen’s example and move rapidly to end both the wildlife trade and the dog and cat meat trade. Both cause so much unnecessary animal suffering and have no place in the modern world.