Much of the illegal trade in wildlife turns up in China: think bears, pangolins and tigers. Now, however, consuming bear bile, pangolin foetuses or tiger blood there could lead to jail time. Pangolin can sell for as much as RMB2,000 (USD324/GBP193/EUR234) a shot, making the eating of it a status symbol.
Following a reinterpretation of Chinese law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), people who guzzle any of 420 endangered species including giant Asian black bears, golden monkeys and pandas could find themselves in prison for more than a decade.
How widespread is eating endangered species in China?
In a 2013 report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the trade in illegal wildlife was ranked as the most profitable criminal activity after drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking. Wealth in China is increasing, and many native wild species, including turtles and deer, verge on extinction because people will pay to eat them. Lang Sheng, deputy head of the NPC’s Legislative Affairs Commission, spelled out that buyers were what prompted illegal hunting on a large scale. Another NPC figure, Li Shouwei, summarised the latest measure as “No trade, no killing.” One more of the NPC crew, Jin Hua, cautioned that eating wildlife could spread disease, and it has been suggested that AIDS crossed the species barrier from monkeys to humans in this manner.
What will happen
Trade in endangered species was already illegal in China under the Law on the Protection of Wildlife, but eating endangered species will now be viewed as trading, so consumers are directly liable. Animals can still be eaten if they were captive-bred, which might make the law harder to enforce, however conservationists have mostly applauded the move. Cheryl Lo, a spokeswoman for the World Wide Fund for Nature, told CNN that she was “very happy,” but that it remained to be seen whether the law would be enforced. The consumption of wildlife is a centuries-old tradition in China, so the NPC is showing courage.
Take your hat off to the government of China
Peter Knights, the executive director of the pressure group, WildAid, saluted the efforts of the Chinese government, which have extended to the banning of the serving of shark fin soup at state banquets, the arrest of two Russians who were smuggling 213 bear paws and the public crushing of seized ivory. He affirmed that animals all over the world will benefit from the clampdown on eating endangered species.
Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”