China has officially classified dogs as pets and not food - here’s why

China’s government has reclassified dogs as pets, not food, amid fears over animal to human disease transmission, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This potential game changer for animal rights comes after years of passionate campaigning on the issue.

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Draft legislation was issued by the Chinese government on Wednesday night (8 Apr) which outlines the animals which are considered fit for consumption.

‘Special companion animal’

The list did not include dogs as an international livestock recognised by the country’s Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs, but as ‘special companion animals’.

Addressing the decision on Wednesday, a spokesperson from the Ministry said, “As far as dogs are concerned, along with the progress of human civilisation and the public concern and love for animal protection, dogs have been specialised to become companion animals, and internationally are not considered to be livestock, and they will not be regulated as livestock in China.”

What is the general opinion of dog meat in China?

The animal cruelty organisation, Humane Society International (HSI), has estimated that at least 10 million dogs are killed for meat in China annually, including many pet dogs which are stolen for the meat trade.

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Yet, despite these large figures, Wendy Higgins (a spokesperson at HSI) says dog meat is decreasing in popularity among the general public.

Higgins claims there has been “a major shift” in public opinion of the trade, and the government’s decision recognises “that most people in China don’t eat dogs and cats and want an end to the theft of their companion animals for a meat trade that only a small percentage of the population indulge in.”

The decision comes after the Chinese city of Shenzhen recently became the first authority in mainland China to prohibit the dog and cat meat trade, as well as the consumption of both animals.

Which animals have been deemed fit for consumption?

The draft issued by the government has listed farm animals such as cows, pigs, sheep and chickens as fit for human consumption. Wildlife such as foxes, deer, game birds and mink also made the ‘white list’.

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After the Covid-19 outbreak, China’s central government imposed a ban on the wildlife trade, a practice which saw various wild animals being sold for consumption in meat markets across the country. This ban was introduced due to the belief that the coronavirus had begun with horseshoe bats passing the virus onto species sold in the Wuhan meat market.

China’s central government is expected to lift the current ban on the wildlife trade and these species are expected to be approved as accepted meat sources.

Meanwhile, the historic legislation introduced by Shenzhen earlier this month protects wildlife, as well as dogs and cats, from the meat trade in the city. There, anyone found to be selling, butchering, or eating animals such as snakes and lizards will now be fined up to 150,000 yuan - the equivalent of £17,036.

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