Wildlife protection law draft amendment sparks debate among activists

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-5 1:18:01

China's first proposed amendment to its wildlife protection law in 26 years has triggered heated debate among animal rights activists following its release to solicit public opinions last week.

Some animal rights activists called for the deletion of the phrase "developing and utilizing wildlife resources" from the draft to prevent wildlife from being used for commercial purposes, though they approve of its great significance to the protection of wild animals.

The draft amendment, which was submitted for first reading at the bimonthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee on December 26, adds regulations on punishments for selling, purchasing, utilizing and transporting wild animals that are not nationally protected. The amendment also bans people from performing mercy releases of captive animals.

Under the draft's stipulations, citizens are obligated to protect wildlife and are expected to report any encroachment on or damage to wildlife habitats. The draft also requires local governments to protect wildlife and habitats with specific measures, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The draft stressed that the use and consumption of wild animals and products derived from them should take place in accordance with regulations and in the interest of public order and good practice.

However, many animal rights activists and experts reached by the Global Times said that they hoped the term "utilizing wild animals" would be deleted from the draft.

"The draft law still views wild animals as resources, which goes against the worldwide trend," Mang Ping, a professor of environmental ethics at the Central Institute of Socialism, told the Global Times, adding that such terms should be deleted to prevent wild animals from being used for commercial purposes.

But Yan Xun, an engineer from the State Forestry Bureau's wildlife protection department, argued that the law should take a realistic approach.

"The economic development of some areas relies on wild animals, and we cannot deprive rural residents of the resources which provide them with a living," Yan told news site thepaper.cn on Monday.

Yu Fengqin, director of wildlife protection NGO Ark in Green Fields, also suggested that people who buy and eat wild animals should face punishment.

Yu told the Global Times that all wild animals should be protected by the law, not just species that are rare or near extinction, or species which have an important economic or scientific value.

"Every wild animal has its ecological function. Poor protection of them may endanger other key wild animals and break the ecological balance," Yu said.

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