Cats on way to meat marketAccording to a headline in the January 26 issue of the U.K. newspaper the Guardian, Chinese legal experts are calling for a ban on eating cats and dogs. “We are proposing that all dog and cat eating should be banned because it is causing many social problems,” said Chang Jiwen, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

While the Chinese have a long history of consuming dogs and cats, China’s growing middle-class has qualms about eating the animals they increasingly see as pets. The Guardian reports that online petitions to outlaw the eating of dogs and cats can draw tens of thousands of signatures.

The proposed law would establish fines and possible jail time for violators. According to China Daily, “people caught eating dog or cat meat will be detained for no more than 15 days with a fine of 5,000 yuan ($732). Any unit or group found violating the rule will be fined between 10,000 yuan ($1,464) to 500,000 yuan ($73,239).”

In addition to the provisions pertaining to eating dogs and cats, the proposed legislative package would also address animal medical treatment, transportation, and the regulation of butchers. The law would be something of a milestone in China, which essentially lacks any legal mechanisms to protect animals from cruelty or abuse.

Previous efforts to enact animal welfare legislation have met with little success, as many Chinese are resistant to the very concept of animal welfare. According to Chang Jiwen, who is also director of the animal protection legislation project panel, some in China “cannot accept the proposals related to ‘animal protection’ or ‘welfare for animals’ because they think that the first priority is to protect human welfare….”

This is, of course, an absurd argument against animal welfare laws. Passing a law on behalf of animals doesn’t mean that a law on behalf of humans was not passed. Laws are not enacted based on some sort of weird add-one/minus-one system. No one has ever said, “Gee, if we criminalize a form of cruelty against animals, then we’ll have to legalize a form of cruelty against people to keep things even.”

Some cynics have complained that banning the eating of dogs and cats is hypocritical. What about pigs and cows and chickens and all the other animals? Why not ban eating them? The cynics have a point, but really, so what? China is not going to suddenly go vegetarian overnight.  A law to ban the eating of all forms of meat just isn’t feasible. The ban on eating dogs and cats is. It’s better to save some animals than to save no animals.

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