Measures needed to combat illegal consumption of wild animals as selling of protected species emerges in China: experts
Published: Apr 22, 2024 05:01 PM
A man passes by a public service wall promoting the protection of wildlife and rejecting the consumption of wild animals in Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province, on January 12, 2024. Photo: VCG

A man passes by a public service wall promoting the protection of wildlife and rejecting the consumption of wild animals in Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province, on January 12, 2024. Photo: VCG

The recent concerning surge in online platforms openly selling a variety of wild animals for consumption has sparked intense discussion. Experts noted that these activities seriously violate wildlife protection laws, and also emphasized the urgent need for stricter identification of wild animals bred for consumption and called for legal action to be taken against individuals who flout the law.

According to the Legal Daily on Monday, a concerning trend has emerged on online platforms recently where numerous merchants are openly selling a variety of wild animals for consumption. Additionally, some livestreamers are broadcasting live videos showcasing the hunting of wild animals.

Among the animals being sold are porcupines, masked palm civets, bamboo rats, and other species protected under the wildlife protection law and are strictly prohibited from being consumed.

For instance, an online seller named "Bamboo rat farming" has over 70 posts on their homepage, predominantly focusing on the way of cooking bamboo rats and porcupines, with a series of images displaying neatly packaged wild boar meat, primed for delivery. 

The accompanying description highlights the seller's commitment to providing a consistent supply of wild boar products, emphasizing the freshness and affordability of the meat. Additionally, the seller declares the ability to ship products nationwide.

In terms of livestreaming videos showcasing the hunting of wild animals, there are two main forms. One form focuses on the forest scenery, with the hunting process narrated by the livestreamer and other voices. The other form is bloodier, showing the brutal reality of the hunt, such as hunting dogs tearing apart wild boars.

Among the numerous livestreaming rooms using the keyword "protecting farmers" for disguise, many livestreamers use bright lights at night to hunt the wild animals. However, it is concerning to see that some of these videos depict the hunting dogs attacking animals other than wild boars, which are allowed to be captured if the relevant laws are followed. In some instances, individuals even said "as long as you are brave enough, you can eat and sell whatever you get."

Furthermore, some livestreamers go as far as to showcase videos of hunting using snares. This goes against the regulations outlined under wildlife protection law, which explicitly forbids the use of traps, snares, and night hunting with lighting.

Despite the abundance of short video content and livestreaming leading to seemingly no shortage of tipoffs for illegal wildlife trade and poaching, effectively addressing this problem is no easy task. 

Simply analyzing individual items of evidence such as videos, images, and chat records is often insufficient to meet the standards required for criminal prosecution, and law enforcement agencies are unable to directly intervene, said a wildlife protection volunteer surnamed Yang, who was quoted by the Legal Daily.

Yang added that the local forestry and grassland bureau, as the responsible body for wildlife protection, also faces challenges in utilizing the limited information provided on online platforms. For instance, identifying and prosecuting poachers solely based on a single online account proves to be a daunting task. Even in cases where perpetrators are detected, a substantial amount of evidence is necessary to substantiate the act of poaching. Consequently, in many instances, illegal hunting of wild boars may go unpunished.

To effectively address the problem, Liu Mingming, an associate professor at the College of Humanities and Development Studies of the China Agricultural University, noted that it's essential to strengthen the full-process supervision of artificially bred animals. 

Law enforcement departments should strengthen the management of special identification to prevent artificial breeding units from mixing wild populations into artificially bred animals, according to Liu. At the same time, emphasis should be placed on the responsibility of selling units, registering buyers and their intentions, and holding artificial breeding units and their direct responsible personnel accountable for selling wild animals for consumption, in accordance with the law on joint violations or crimes.

Experts also suggest that relevant departments should impose stricter regulations and supervision on the current hunting livestreams, as this type of broadcasting may have a negative impact on the public's attitude and behavior toward wildlife, which is not conducive to public education on wildlife conservation. Moreover, live hunting activities may involve the improper treatment of animals, which could potentially violate animal welfare and ethical standards.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, the revised Law on the Protection of Wildlife, which took effect on May 1, 2023, explicitly prohibits consumption of wild animals under special state protection as well as terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social values and others on the list of national protection.

Additionally, any acts of hunting, trading or transporting for meat of terrestrial wild animals that grow and reproduce naturally in the wild shall be forbidden, according to the revised law.

Global Times