Breaking news: Chinese provinces announce plans to buy out wildlife breeders, end trade in wild anim
Wildlife markets, where wild animals are sold and slaughtered on site, have been implicated in global disease spread in the past and most recently in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, increasing pressure on China to end its wildlife trade. Photo by Dog Meat Free Indonesia
Four Chinese provinces will offer farmers a government buy-out or other financial help to stop breeding wild animals like civets and cobras for food. This move is part of a continuing crackdown by China and its individual provinces and cities on the nation’s rampant wildlife trade for food in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and it could be a promising blueprint for the rest of the nation for ending this inhumane trade.
China’s wildlife markets, where wild animals are sold and slaughtered on site, have been implicated in disease spread in the past and most recently in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, increasing pressure on the country to end its wildlife trade. In plans published last Friday, the provinces of Hunan and Jiangxi announced they will compensate wildlife farmers to transition to alternative livelihoods, including growing fruit, vegetables, tea plants or herbs for traditional Chinese medicine. This week, two other provinces, Guangdong and Guangxi, promised similar plans, with details forthcoming.
The plans from Hunan and Jiangxi, unfortunately, also offer farmers a choice to switch to breeding other animals, like pigs and chickens. We urge the provinces to reconsider that aspect. China’s national dietary guidelines recommend a 50% reduction in meat consumption and Chinese diets have traditionally been plant-centered. A growing number of Chinese are also increasingly interested in plant-based options in their diets, and this is a great opportunity for farmers to focus on growing fruits and vegetables rather than animals.
Under its plan, Hunan province will offer farmers 120 yuan per kilogram of cobra, king rattle snake or rat snake; 75 yuan per kilogram of bamboo rat; 630 yuan per porcupine; 600 yuan per civet; and 378 yuan and 2,457 yuan per wild goose and Chinese muntjac deer respectively.
Helping animal farmers transition to humane livelihoods is a model that Humane Society International has already used with great success in South Korea as part of our work to end the dog meat trade there. To date, we have helped 16 dog farmers move to farming chilis, mushrooms or water parsley, and we have found, in most cases, that the farmers are only too eager to give up breeding dogs. Once we started doing this, farmers began seeking us out on their own, looking for a way out of what they realized was an inhumane trade with no future.
We commend the Chinese authorities for staying the course on ending the trade in wildlife for food, and the four provinces for their practical approach to ending it, but we also urge the nation to ensure that the suffering is not transferred to other animals, like pigs and chickens. In February, China’s national legislature announced a ban on wildlife trade and consumption, although that ban still needs to be added to the country’s Wildlife Protection Law before it becomes permanent. In April, the Chinese government came out with a proposed white list, which is now pending approval, of animals for consumption. That list includes some wild animals, like sika deer, reindeer and guinea fowl, but not other animals who are now commonly bred and sold for food, like civets and cobra snakes. Also in April, two cities, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, announced bans on the consumption of wildlife as well as dog and cat meat.
We are concerned that the buy-out plans in the provinces do not include animals farmed for their fur, like mink, raccoon dogs and foxes. In fact, the white list proposed by China in April would reclassify these animals as “livestock,” ensuring that their suffering continues. Fur farms pose a high risk for disease, as I pointed out in a recent blog, because animals are crowded into close contact with each other’s respiratory secretions and excrement. For example, foxes and raccoon dogs kept in close confinement have been found to be infected with viral diseases like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and mink on four European fur farms have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. China is the world’s largest producer of fur products and if it truly wants to end the threat of another pandemic, it cannot continue to ignore the fur industry and the havoc it wreaks on wildlife.
We also hope the four provinces will come up with humane plans for animals who are now on farms that they buy out. Three options have been proposed, including the release of animals into the wild, to industries like zoos, laboratory research and traditional medicine, and mass culling. But as Peter Li, our China policy specialist, points out, zoos and the traditional medicine industry in that country operate with little to no concern for animal welfare, and culling programs in China can frequently involve appalling methods, including live burial. This is simply not acceptable. Animal welfare is a growing concern for millions of Chinese, who are unhappy about their nation’s cavalier attitude in such matters. Moreover, with the pandemic claiming more than 300,000 human lives so far, the world is watching China and its wildlife trade closely. We expect even more provinces with wildlife breeding operations to adopt similar buyout plans in coming days, and we ask China’s national government to implement these reforms with full regard for animals’ well-being and dignity.
Published at Tue, 19 May 2020 20:16:13 +0000
Tiger cubs already have weaker immune systems due to their young age, especially cubs taken away from their mother and her nutrient-rich milk. Photo by the HSUS
Last week, the Oklahoma roadside zoo where Joe Exotic bred tiger cubs, ripped them from their mothers as soon as they were born, hit them so they would pose with visitors for photos, and disposed of many of them when they were no longer of any use to him, reopened to the public. The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (GW Exotics) saw a boost in visitors despite the pandemic, according to media reports, as a result of its new-found fame since the airing of the Netflix series “Tiger King.”
GW Exotics is not the only roadside zoo that’s reopened. Others across the United States, including Doc Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari, also featured in the Netflix series, are luring in visitors. These are ramshackle operations that even in normal times exploit the animals in their care with no regard whatsoever for their safety, or the safety of the visitors patronizing them. But in the midst of a pandemic, the dangers are even greater. Big cats are known to be especially susceptible to human-animal transmission of the coronavirus, with five tigers and three lions at the Bronx Zoo having tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Despite these risks, roadside zoos are not only packing in the visitors by offering perks like free admission, some, like GW Exotics, continue to offer visitors access to the animals.
One of those visitors who visited GW Exotics on May 2nd told National Geographic that she was able to book a cub-petting experience with two baby tigers and witnessed a cub being passed around to a group of 25 people who were able to pet the animal. Visitors could pay to feed the tigers animal crackers. Multiple visitors stated that they did not see staff wearing masks and they were not asked to wear gloves or masks.
What goes on behind the scenes is worse, as we have revealed in our investigations of roadside zoos, including a 2011 undercover investigation of GW Exotics. At GW, for example, our investigators documented untrained staff handling animals, and cubs being routinely punched, dragged and whipped to “train” and handle them. Animals kept in such conditions often suffer from chronic stress which can decrease immune system function, increasing their susceptibility to viruses and other ailments. Cubs already have weaker immune systems due to their young age, especially cubs taken away from their mother and her nutrient-rich milk.
The United States is not alone in exploiting big cats for the tourism industry; operations that offer close contact between humans and big cats exist in Thailand and South Africa, and they need to be closed down to prevent another pandemic. South Africa, for instance, is home to more than 300 captive lion breeding facilities where up to 12,000 lions live, most in deplorable conditions. Many of these facilities allow tourists to cuddle, pet and bottle-feed lion cubs. Lions at these facilities are intensively bred and newborn cubs are ripped away from their mothers mere days or hours after being born.
The Netflix series and its focus on Joe Exotic’s bizarre life failed to focus attention on the deep animal welfare problems that fester in roadside zoos like GW Exotics and other tourism enterprises that exploit big cats. Earlier this month, after hearing of a new series on Joe Exotic starring Nicholas Cage, we offered the producers materials from our undercover investigation in hopes that the new series would accurately portray the terror wreaked on animals at GW Exotics. While so many viewers have focused solely on the outlandish lives of the characters in the “Tiger King,” we can never forget that all that drama came at a very high cost to the animals. Now, with a pandemic upon us, our fight to end this especially cruel brand of exploitation continues with greater urgency than ever before.
Published at Mon, 18 May 2020 21:26:48 +0000