It’s getting a little easier to be an animal in China. The country’s fledgling animal-rights movement this week received a double boost, with a animal-welfare law in the works and a prominent zoo taking action to stop animal performances.
On Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Global Times, the tabloid affiliated with the official Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, reported that that the National People’s Congress is moving ahead on a plan to pass landmark legislation to protect animals, both in the wild and in captivity. Lawmakers have just completed a draft of the proposal, Chang Jiwen, vice director of the Research Institute of Resources and Environment Policies under the Development Research Center of the State Council, told the newspaper.
There’s still a long way to go before the proposal becomes law: China’s parliament isn’t likely to take up the amendment until late in 2015. But given China’s track record, we should take progress wherever we can get it. Or, as the Global Times reported, “Shi Kun, director of the Wildlife Institute at Beijing Forestry University, told the Global Times that China has long been criticized for not treating wild animals humanely, but with legal recognition of animal welfare, the country should be able to make progress on curbing phenomenon like overtime performance by zoo animals and harsh living conditions for wildlife on farms.”
Chinese zoo animals need the help. The country has about 180 zoos, and almost all of them feature performances by animals, according to the Animals Asia Foundation, an NGO that has been lobbying Chinese zoos to stop the practice. There are also about 50 safari parks that include animal performances, said Dave Neale, animal welfare director at Animals Asia. “They have black bears riding bicycles, macaques on bicycles, tigers doing circus tricks,” he said. “A lot of the big cats—the tigers and the lions—have had their teeth removed.”
In the spring, the Beijing zoo joined the foundation’s campaign against animal performances. Now the zoo in Hangzhou—the eastern Chinese city that is home to e-commerce company Alibaba (BABA)—has said it will stop animal performances after lobbying by the Animals Asia Foundation, the NGO announced on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA), which represents zoos worldwide, can’t be much help in China. The group includes two Taiwanese zoos, as well as a Hong Kong marine park and zoo, but no zoos from the mainland belong to WAZA. “That may change over time,” said Neale. “A lot of the individual zoos [in China] are interested in becoming members.”
Until now, the Hangzhou Zoo was best known outside China for an incident in the winter of 2013 when visitors pelted the zoo’s lions with snowballs. “Our animals should be treated fairly,” Hangzhou Zoo breeder Zhu Yan told the Xinhua news agency at the time. “We hope our visitors will use some self-discipline and be nicer to them.”
Source: Business Week