China Announces New Rules That Classify Dogs as Pets, Not Food, Citing “Progress of Civilization”

During these challenging times, we all need some good news, something that will encourage us to believe that even though it seems that our homes will never be the same anymore, some things will change for the better.

Well, we have a candidate!

China decided to take steps towards officially banning the trade of dog meat, which would save the lives of millions of dogs annually. This new draft considered by the government now classifies dogs as companions, and not livestock.

On April 8, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs stated that it would make a move and  reclassify dogs as pets, opposing the old cultural traditions:

The ministry stated:

“With the progress of human civilization and the public’s concern and preference for animal protection, dogs have changed from traditional domestic animals to companion animals. Dogs are generally not regarded as livestock and poultry around the world, and China should also not manage them as livestock and poultry.”

Yet, even though the traditional beliefs of the Chinese medicine indicate that dog meat is nutritious and helps in the prevention of common summertime diseases, the practice is not common, and most Chinese citizens have never tried dog meat.

The ministry announced that the draft law is not linked to the consumption of dog meat, but analysts and advocates were more than happy to welcome the measure.

Animal rights NGO the Humane Society International called the draft a “potential game-changer” for animal welfare.

According to Humane Society International director Wendy Higgins, the move is “incredibly encouraging”, as this is “the first time the national government in China has explicitly explained why dogs… are excluded from the official livestock list, stating that these are companion animals and not for eating.”

Previously, Shenzhen, a city with over 12.5 million residents, became the first city on the mainland to specifically ban the consumption of cats and dogs.

A spokesperson for Shenzhen’s government stated:

“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.”

Sun Quanhui, a researcher at United Nations consultative organization World Animal Protection, thinks that more cities and provinces will follow suit.

Hong Kong-based animal welfare group Animals Asia claims that around 10 million dogs and four million cats are slaughtered and consumed in China annually. Yet, the growing number of pet lovers are increasingly criticizing this practice.

The new national guidelines list 18 animals as livestock, and 13 animals were excluded from wild-animal trading and farm-raising restrictions, like mink, alpaca, deer, foxes, ostriches, pheasants, and reindeer.

Many believe that the move is one of the series of responses after the coronavirus pandemic emerged around the wet markets of Wuhan, Hubei Province.

The CNN then reported that the Wuhan market featured crowded and unsanitary conditions, with people and wild animals nearby:

“Snakes, raccoon dogs, porcupines and deer were just some of the species crammed inside cages, side by side with shoppers and store owners, according to footage obtained by CNN. Some animals were filmed being slaughtered in the market in front of customers. CNN hasn’t been able to independently verify the footage, which was posted to Weibo by a concerned citizen, and has since been deleted by government censors.”

China has temporarily banned wild animal markets due to the coronavirus outbreak, and promised to look at the ban once the pandemic settles down, meaning that it might be upgraded to permanent.

On the other hand, thousands of people employed in dog-related businesses opposed the new draft bill,  especially in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where the traditional dog meat festival in the city of Yulin takes place every year.

Yet, according to an online poll on social media platform Sina Weibo, only 6,600 people opposed the idea of banning the consumption of dog meat, while more than 40,000 Chinese netizens support it.