The stirrings of a new protest movement
HUMAN rights, or the lack of them, have long been a focus of China's critics at home and abroad. But a new rights movement--complete with idealistic local and foreign campaigners--is stirring: animal rights.
Animals are treated dreadfully in Chinese farms, laboratories, zoos and elsewhere. There are grim factories where thousands of live bears in tiny cages are tapped for medicinal bile. At safari parks, live sheep and poultry are fed to lions as spectators cheer. At farms and in slaughterhouses, animals are killed with little concern for their suffering.
According to Zhou Ping, of China's legislature, the National People's Congress, few Chinese accept that animals have any rights at all. She thinks it is time they did, and in 2006 put forward China's first national animal-welfare law. Her proposal got nowhere, and there is no sign of progress since. "There is so far", she says, "only a small voice calling for change."
Louder voices get short shrift from China's rulers. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an activist group based in America, known for its robust approach, treads lightly in China. Its advertisements, featuring Chinese stars, are more playful than shocking. It is also working quietly with local officials, for example advising police in Nanjing on handling stray dogs--a growing problem in many Chinese cities where the keeping of pets, once rare, is becoming widespread.