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China Reclassifies Dogs As Pets, Not Livestock; Activists Call It 'potential Game Changer'

A draft policy by China’s Ministry of Agriculture cites concern over animal welfare and prevention of disease transmission as factors behind the move.

Dog meat

China has reportedly signalled that to put an end to the consumption of dog meat after the agriculture ministry released a draft policy to reclassify dogs as pets, rather than livestock. In the draft of the “white list” that mentioned animals allowed to be reared for meat, the dog was excluded as “special companion animal” and wasn’t recognised as livestock, according to media reports. 

In view of growing international concerns about animal welfare, and the criticism over the COVID-19 outbreak, China’s Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs cited public health and “progress of human civilization” as the reasons for revising the “white list”. 

“As far as dogs are concerned, along with the progress of human civilisation and the public concern and love for animal protection, dogs have been ‘specialised’ to become companion animals, and internationally are not considered to be livestock, and they will not be regulated as livestock in China,” read a statement issued by the China's Ministry of Agriculture.

The international head of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Paul Littlefair, told a US media outlet that it was the first time that a ministry had recognised that 'dogs are not food animals'. He further said that the decision opened the door for the local governments to follow Shenzhen, which is the first Chinese city to ban the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat. 

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Around 10-20 million dogs killed for food every year

According to reports, the city of Shenzhen became the first-ever in Chinese city to impose a total ban on the consumption and sale of dog and cat meat. The decision has ignited hope amongst the activists and the animal welfare groups worldwide. The new policy has been recognised as a “game-changer” for several other states in China. Wendy Higgins of Humane Society International (HSI), told a media outlet that ban on dog meat is a significant step that could save at least 10 to 20 million dogs in China that are killed for food every year. She added saying that it could ease the suffering of the animals in the captive breeding facilities which also poses a threat to human health. 

Health experts have reportedly criticised China’s sale and trade of exotic animals for food in the past saying that it posed a significant threat to public health as the wet markets exposed consumers to dangerous pathogens. According to reports, scientists are speculating that the novel Coronavirus have originated in horseshoe bats or pangolins, that later was transmitted to humans as SARS did from civets. Civet, a cat-like species, sold in the Wuhan market for consumption, acted as a pathogen carrier during the SARS epidemic. 

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