There has been some unclear reporting on a tightening up of existing legislation in China. Despite the existence of the 1998 (1997?) Law On the Protection of Wildlife in China, there has been widespread eating of the body parts of some endangered wild life species. Often they are high profile, exotic species as the collage below indicates.
It is a tradition in large parts of China to eat bits of wildlife because it is believed that it improves health. In addition, many wild species are added to ancient oriental medicines in the belief that it improves one’s health.
Even the Chinese government understand that these beliefs are unjustified and illogical. They are ancient beliefs that need to be modernised because they have a devastating effect on endangered wild life species both living within and outside China.
What has happened, recently, is that the Chinese government appears to have decided to tighten up existing legislation, very late in the day, to try to protect wildlife both inside and outside China because some wild life species are highly endangered.
Poaching of wildlife species for consumption by Asian people, including Chinese, is one of the major reasons why some species are becoming extinct and I refer here to the Bengal tiger as being the highest profile wild animal that is under extreme pressure from both habitat loss and being eaten by people!
The Times newspaper reports that China’s legislature has voted to jail people caught eating rare wild animals. The news comes from the Chinese state news agency.
The Chinese government has deemed 420 species of wild animals as rare or endangered and not for human consumption! At present, I’m unable to find the actual list on the Internet because I want to see whether the tiger is included, which it really must be. I suspect, and hope that it is.
Apparently, giant pandas, golden monkeys, Asian black bears and pangolins are included. Eating animals on the list or purchasing them for other purposes (I presume this includes for medicines) would now be a criminal offence.
The premier Australian online newspaper states that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) approved a new interpretation of the criminal law of China and they are no doubt referring to 1998 law quoted above. So this is about interpreting an existing law and enforcing it properly for the first time.
Punishment for eating the animals on this list in restaurants, for example, may result in, on conviction, of a 10 year jail term.
Apparently, the gradually increasing appetite of Asians to each bits of wild life species comes from increasingly wealthy Asian consumers. I suppose what this means is that as the animals become more endangered their body parts become more expensive with the consequence that only the wealthy can afford to eat them. It also means that the animals become more desirable to humans because of their rarity.
So what do you make of this? Well, as mentioned, it is long overdue because the Chinese government has been extremely dilatory in preventing poaching of extremely rare and endangered species. It is the poachers who feed the market by providing carcasses to middlemen. Up until now it is people such as Park Rangers working in India’s tiger reserves who try to catch poachers but poaching would be stopped far more effectively if the market for tiger body parts was shut down.
The only remaining question is whether the Chinese government can now truly enforce this interpretation of existing law. Without effective enforcement the law is nothing and is quite pointless. I have a very strong feeling that, in reality, nothing at all will change. That is a highly pessimistic view but one that is based upon reality and the past history of this horribly self-indulgent and ridiculous human desire (to eat the body parts of rare and endangered wild animals).