Since the outbreak of COVID-19 that quickly became a pandemic sweeping across the globe, reports have stated that the coronavirus was linked to the consumption of wildlife meat. The Chinese authorities were then prompted to ban the trade and consumption of wild animals.
According to CNN, a strict ban on the consumption and farming of wild animals has been implemented in China in late February 2020, however ending the trade itself is a difficult mission as the cultural roots of China’s use of wild animals run deep, not just for food but also for traditional medicine, clothing, ornaments and even pets.
The city of Shenzhen in southeastern China took one step further by extending the consumption ban to dogs and cats. The new law will come into force on 1 May, as reported by BBC. An American animal advocacy organisation, the Humane Society International (HSI), had reported that in a year, thirty million dogs are killed across Asia for meat.
The city government of Shenzhen stated that banning the consumption of dogs and cats is indeed a common practice in developed countries since humans have established a closer relationship with these animals.
“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,” according to Shenzhen city government.
The city government had also mentioned that this particular ban responds to the “demand and spirit of human civilisation”.
Upon hearing this piece of good news, the HSI commented that this ban serves as a turning point to the trade that kills about 10 million dogs and 4 million cats in China alone, annually.
“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,” said Dr Peter Li, China policy specialist for HSI.
Although many are pleased to hear about the ban on cats and dogs consumption, it has been reported that China approved the use of bear bile as one of the ingredients to treat critically-ill COVID-19 patients. The National Health Commission of China issued guidelines recommending the use of “Tan Re Qing” which is an injection that consists of bear bile powder, goat horn as well as three other medicinal herbs, as reported on the New Straits Times.
The active ingredient in bear bile, ursodeoxycholic acid, is used to dissolve gallstones and treat liver disease but has no proven effectiveness in treating COVID-19.
Activists thought the use of wild animals as an ingredient to treat COVID-19 was rather “tragic and ironic”, considering that the origin of this coronavirus was linked to the trade and consumption of wild animals.
“We shouldn’t be relying on wildlife products like bear bile as the solution to combat a deadly virus that appears to have originated from wildlife,” said Brian Daly, a spokesman for the Animals Asia Foundation.
Mr Daly added that the promotion of using bear bile may affect the bears that are already held captive, as well as those in the wild. This holds a tendency of putting the endangered species in jeopardy.
“Promotion of bear bile has the propensity to increase the amount used, affecting not only captive bears, but also those in the wild, potentially compromising an already endangered species in Asia and across the world,” Mr Daly said.
Kirsty Warren, a spokeswoman for World Animal Protection described that around 20,000 bears are being kept in tiny cages under “cruel conditions” across China. She explained that all these bears are destined to cater to the demand from traditional medicine suppliers.
“There are about 20,000 bears being held in tiny cages under cruel conditions across China to cater to the demand from traditional medicine suppliers”, said Ms Warren.