China’s agriculture ministry is reclassifying dogs as pets instead of livestock in response to the global outbreak of the coronavirus.
Reuters reported the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture made the announcement Wednesday.
“As far as dogs are concerned, along with the progress of human civilization and the public concern and love for animal protection, dogs have been ‘specialized’ to become companion animals, and internationally are not considered to be livestock, and they will not be regulated as livestock in China,” the ministry said Wednesday.
China uses a livestock designation “for animals that can be bred to provide food, milk, fur, fibre and medicine, or to serve the needs of sports or the military,” Reuters reported.
China has long been criticized for its treatment of certain animals, particularly at its wet markets, where it is believed the outbreak of COVID-19 began in the city of Wuhan.
In addition to publishing draft guidelines reclassifying dogs as pets, Reuters reported the country has outlawed the “breeding, trading and consumption of wildlife, and revoked all existing licenses. It has also promised to revise legislation to make the ban permanent.”
The reclassification could be a “game-changer” for animal rights in the country, according to the International Humane Society.
“This draft proposal could signal a game-changer moment for animal protection in China,” Humane Society spokeswoman Wendy Higgins told Reuters.
Earlier this month, the Chinese city of Shenzhen became the first mainland Chinese city to ban the consumption of cats and dogs by humans, according to CNN.
The Guardian reported in February: “Consumption of dog and cat meat is most common in Shenzhen’s home province of Guangdong, neighbouring Guangxi, and parts of north-east China, though it is not universally practised across the country and has become less acceptable over time.”
According to Bloomberg, the Ministry of Agriculture’s draft proposal published Wednesday indicates that a nationwide ban on the consumption of dog meat could be coming.
Good news! Chinese government declares dogs are companions not cuisine in move that could pave the way for an end to #dogmeat consumption. Read more here from HSI’s experts: https://t.co/rQteJmqed2 via @guardian #EndDogMeatTrade
— Humane Society Int’l (@HSIGlobal) April 9, 2020
Higgins estimated between 10 million and 20 million dogs are killed for food in China annually.
“The vast majority of dogs caught up in the trade in China are stolen pets and strays snatched from the streets,” Higgins told The Guardian.
“After being stolen or snatched, the animals are crammed in small cages in their hundreds, unable to move, and piled on the back of trucks, packed so tightly they can break limbs,” she said.
The animal rights group Animals Asia estimated that around four million domestic cats are also killed for food in China every year.
“There is a growing and vocal Chinese opposition to the dog and cat meat trade, and young people in China are far more likely to think of dogs as companions than cuisine,” Higgins said.
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