Currently, 420 species of wild animals are considered rare or endangered in China. The government has, in the past year, implemented new policies to curb the consumption of rare animals across the country, but now, China’s top legislator has passed an interpretation of the Criminal Law which will put people who eat rare or wild animals in jail.
According to the legal document, anyone who eats animals on the list of protected species in China or buys them for trading will face a jail term from below five years to more than ten years.
China is home to around 6,500 vertebrae species, 10 percent of the world’s total. More than 470 terrestrial vertebras are indigenous to China, but rampant hunting, trafficking and consumption of wild animal products and a worsening environment has caused the species’ populations to diminish.
National campaigns across China have sought to bring awareness to the problem. WildAid’s “Say No” public service announcements featuring celebrities like Yao Ming, the Duke of Cambridge and Maggie Q are tailored specifically for Chinese audiences and advocate the protection of elephants, rhinos and sharks.
As part of Xi Jinping’s pet project to crack down on extravagance, the government banned all wild animals including shark fin soup at official banquets. Since going into effect, conservationists announced a significant reduction in demand for shark-fin soup and a correspondingly lower number of dead sharks. Hong Kong to mainland shark trade has also dropped by an astounding 90 percent in the last year.
Of course, large-scale cases of animal trafficking and rare animal product smuggling are still splashed across news screens daily (one more disturbing as of recent revealed tiger slaughterings in Guangdong province for the purpose of entertaining rich businessmen who consider it a way to show off their social status).
The consumption of rare animals is one of the main reasons why illegal hunting has not been stopped despite numerous crackdowns, but the new legal interpretations put in place pledge to clear up ambiguities about buyers of prey of illegal hunting. Now, anyone who knowingly buys a wild animal prey of illegal hunting will face a maximum three-year punishment.
Animals that fall under China’s key list of endangered species include giant pandas, Asian black bears, South China tigers and Chinese alligators.
Quartz points out specifically that animals such as golden monkeys, pangolins, the monitor lizard and the yellow-breasted bunting could be saved if people in China would stop eating them.
[Image Credit: string_bass_dave]