China Cat Animal Welfare Protection

Cats in China
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Cats (feral?) China. What’s in store?
Photo by l1nda1


Old fashioned attitudes
Charles Darwin

Introduction  — China Cat Animal Welfare Protection

China Cat Animal Welfare Protection doesn’t exist, formally. Obviously individuals in China will provide good animal welfare and protect their animals. But the state, the government, as far as I am aware do nothing to protect cats (my particular area of interest) and animals in the form of legislation. This is despite there being lots of excellent legislation and organizational models worldwide that could simply be adapted to meet their needs. See, for example, Sweden.

I don’t think that we can accept animal abuse just because it is part of the culture of a country. Yes, we must respect another country’s culture, of course, but not where it is abusive. The proper treatment of fellow humans and animals transcends culture and is universal.

{note: people might criticize this. That’s fine; they are my views and I have the right to express them. I am being objective and balanced. I have visited China in the early 1980s. I realize that there is animal abuse in many other countries including the UK and USA. I argue though that the abuse by certain sections of the Chinese community is institutionalized and more severe than usual. I don’t intend to be condescending or patronized.}

Without legislation one is left with the task of looking at alternative influences on behavior. Laws can affect behavior. Good legislation can gradually alter attitudes. But many people never get involved with the law. Their behavior is dictated by what they have been taught or learnt. And what they have learnt depends to a large part on the culture of the country concerned. It might be helpful to look at the culture to see what might have had an influence on the ethics and morality of the general population of China. Morals precede laws it could be argued. Law is founded in morals. Law is the legal embodiment of morality.

People in the UK are considered animals lovers. But not all of them are. If we are generally animal lovers it is a spin off from the general culture of the country.

Why is the Chinese attitude towards animals poles apart from the attitude of the British or Americans for example? (or is it?). I think that it is fair to say that it is poles apart, judging from what I see and read (if it is accurate).

Update: 13-11-08 I have just bumped into a speech by Wang Wei, Deputy Director of Department of Wildlife Conservation Under State Forestry Administration January 12, 2006 at the Chinese Embassy in Norway. He says animal welfare laws have been created in respect of wild animals. He refers to bile bears (that most nasty of all abuses). He refers to these regulations:

  • Regulation on Management of Taming and Breeding Permits of Key Nationally Protected Wildlife(1989)
  • Universal Technical Standards for Terrestrial Wildlife (Beasts) Raising Farms(1990)
  • Universal Technical Standards for Terrestrial Wildlife (Birds) Raising Farms(1999)
  • Universal Technical Standards for Terrestrial Wildlife (Amphibians and Reptiles)
  • Raising Farms(1990)

At 2006 the government had established 16 wild rescue centers, he says. He says the Chinese government has tackled (tightened up the legislation I presume) experiments on monkeys, rasing of monkeys for experiments, animal shows, improvements to the transportation of wildlife, “promoting non-over use of wild animals for food” and more.

As to the bile bear business he says that the techniques for extracting the bile has been improved. Although this is progress of a sort it falls far short of that expected by decent people. All bile bear businesses should be shut down as it is horrendously cruel. The conclusion that I draw is that slow progress is being made which is good to hear but that there is lots to do and what about companion animals, cats and dogs? He only refers to wild animals.

Update 16-12-08: A poll indicates that 90% of the people of Vietnam, Korea and China are concerned about animal suffering. Why then is there a lot of it in places like China? Read more.

Old fashioned attitudes and education –  China Cat Animal Welfare Protection

There would seem to be several factors at play. Firstly, I note that the Chinese government wants to modernize the country. This tells us that it needs to be modernized. Modernization includes attitudes. Old fashioned outmoded attitudes about animals will tend to result in ill treatment of animals. We have become more enlightened about animal welfare, their abilities and emotions etc. The modern world is more sensitive towards animals. An insensitive abusive approach in which animals are seen as an object to be used by humankind as they wish is becoming outmoded, passé. The world is still developing and has a long way to go. China is the manufacturing center of the world because of cheap labor and good business sense. Cheap labor indicates a country underdeveloped in one sense yet developed in another (i.e. on the business level).

I conclude therefore that one reason for animal abuse in parts of China by some of the population is that the country is underdeveloped on the level of an awareness of animal intelligence, emotion and their ability to suffer.

Old fashioned traditions and attitudes are handed down and become entrenched. Education can change this. The government could instigate a program of instruction at primary school level for instance. Animal welfare could be part of the school curriculum.


A second factor may be Chinese religion and philosophies. The Wikipedia® author says this:

“Chinese religions are often classified as religions, philosophies, spiritualities or ways of life.” (see Wikipedia licensing)

Confucianism  — China Cat Animal Welfare Protection

In respect of Confucianism:

“The cultural background of Chinese people is deeply influenced by Confucianism (儒家; Rujia). It is a philosophy stressing ethical, moral and social values. Confucian system is sometimes considered the proper culture of the Chinese; consequently, it targets religious tendencies and customs.” (this section is a Wikipedia® verbatim copy of a part of a larger article)

For Confucius animals were unimportant. His philosophy barely touches on our relationship with animals. I will take the liberty of quoting Joseph A. Adler May 21, 1999, “For him, animals seemed not even to be on the map; they did not register on his moral compass.” This encourages poor relations with animals.

However, an influential Confucian follower, Mencius, was more sympathetic towards animals. And “a Japanese Confucian scholar Japanese Confucian scholar Kaibara Ekken, in the Tokugawa period, translated this into explicit recommendations against mistreatment of animals and plants, which he construed as “serving Heaven” (from Mencius 7A:1), thus placing humane treatment of animals in a clearly religious context.” (Joseph A. Adler May 21, 1999)

However, and this I think is the key issue, the problem (
for animals) with Confucianism is the idea that humans are the highest form of life, separated from the other animals. In Christianity this is the concept of humans having “dominion” over animals. Although this concept is not inconsistent with animal welfare, I would argue that it encourages ill treatment.

This leads me to Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin  — China Cat Animal Welfare Protection

Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of the Species was published 24 November 1859. The book dealt a blow to humankind’s self esteem. It stated in the most convincing of ways that humans are just another animal species. This is yet to be fully digested by mankind. It is still fervently resisted by large sections of mankind. In order to make Darwin’s theories digestable, people created the myth that his theories stated that evolution by natural selection had placed the human at the top of the tree of all species. This is incorrect. Humans are simply one of the world’s species he said.

Despite the rejection by some (an increasingly smaller minority) in my estimation Darwin has had a significant effect on our perception of other species. It educated us and made us more sensitive to other species.

It would seem that his book was not published and/or circulated in China. It is possible that it was banned from China as websites are today. If this was the case the Chinese would not have received the benefit of this fanastic work. This would encourage a lack of respect for other animal species and the likelihood of ill treating them increased.

Buddhism  — China Cat Animal Welfare Protection

And in respect of Buddhism:

The Wikipedia® author says this about Buddhism in relation to animals:

“Animals have always been regarded in Buddhist thought as sentient beings, different in their intellectual ability than humans but no less capable of feeling suffering. Furthermore, animals possess Buddha nature (according to the Mahayana school) and therefore an equal potential to become enlightened. Moreover, the doctrine of rebirth held that any human could be reborn as an animal, and any animal could be reborn as a human. An animal might be a reborn dead relative…….”

Buddhism is a major religion in China:

“More recent surveys put the total number of Chinese Buddhists between 660 million (50%) and over 1 billion (80%)….” This is to be qualified by this remark, “However, it was difficult to estimate accurately the number of Buddhists because they did not have congregational memberships and often did not participate in public ceremonies.” (these sections are a Wikipedia® verbatim copy of a part of a larger article, see licensing)

I conclude that Buddhists are unlikely to ill treat animals. Accordingly, Buddhism, a major religion in China, is unlikely to infuse Chinese culture with thoughts that direct people to abuse companion animals, for example.

Taoism  — China Cat Animal Welfare Protection

Taoism is a major religion in China. As I understand in Taoist philosophy all things, inanimate and living, are equal to one another. This would go against animal ill treatment. Taoism promotes equal respect of all things.

The concept of animals being living creatures

In 1999, Japan, for the first time it its long history, introduced the concept that animals are living creatures into its animal welfare legislation (the Law for the Humane Treatment and Management of Animals). This is relatively recently. Yet, in the West, in fact, companion animals are still in the eyes of the civil law “objects” the same as any other inanimate object. This it could be argued needs to be changed. The same situation exists in the USA for example. Although, there is often good animal welfare legislation in the West.

Japan is more advanced than China in terms of animal welfare. Is it that a substantial proportion of the people of China treat animals as not living creatures and if so why? This would explain the animal cruelty.

Conclusion  China Cat Animal Welfare Protection

Large parts of China need modernizing. Large sections of the community have old fashioned, outmoded ideas about other animal species and animal welfare, exacerbated by a lack of knowledge . These ideas and a lack of education allow animal abuse. The culture of abuse towards cats and dogs, companion animals, is exacerbated by Chinese cuisine, health and medicine (see ancient Chinese Medicine). The terribly cruel half killing of dogs and cats and then skinning them is intented to make the meat more tender and taste better. All this is underpinned by ancient Confucian philosophy with encourages a “them and us” attitude towards animals.

Going back to the beginning. If the Chinese government enacted animal welfare legislation it would serve to alter the attitudes of people over time. China shouldn’t resist this simply because the West is asking for it. They could take the lead from one of their neighbors, Japan. This would greatly improve the image of China. Isn’t this what the Chinese government desperately wants? Initially the government could introduce legislation as a PR exercise. Then gradually it would become effective. No doubt business plays a role in making political decisions. Bigger business in the long term will flow if China enacts animal welfare legislation.

From China Cat Animal Welfare Protection to Cats and the Law

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