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Animal Rights Increasing

March 18, 2007
South China Morning Post
http://china.scmp.com/chimain/ZZZVOKC0CZE.html

We should listen more to nature's voices, says NPC delegate, one of several to champion the cause

by NG TZE-WEI

The government work report presented at the annual National People's Congress may have focused on improving people's welfare, but for some delegates the welfare of animals is just as important.

"Protecting the rights of animals needs to be done at the same time as protecting the rights of people," said Sima Xiaomeng , a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference who has proposed ways to save homeless animals, which authorities in some parts of the mainland kill to stop the spread of rabies and other diseases.

"Without a change in our mentality towards animals, our quality as people will not improve and we will not be able to keep the fruits of our economic growth," said Ms Sima.

The mainland has seen a year of rising public awareness of animal rights. Hundreds of dog owners took to the streets of Beijing last year protesting against the government's cull of large dogs in the capital under the so-called "civilised dog-keeping" campaign.

A rescue mission last year to Tianjin to save 400 cats from being sold for their meat and fur prompted Hu Qiheng , one of those who took part, and other CPPCC delegates to call for laws against cruelty to animals and to safeguard animal welfare.

"As quality of life improves, we should listen more to nature's voices," said NPC delegate Zhou Ping , who has called for the abolition of bear farming, in which the large animals are locked in tiny cages for live extraction of bile, used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Ms Zhou, supported by about 20 other NPC delegates from Sichuan , said that this practice violated animal welfare and seriously damaged the image of traditional Chinese medicine and the nation.

"The existence of the bear farming industry is in total violation of the spirit of harmony between man and animals as required by the `Green Olympics'," said Ms Zhou, referring to the slogan adopted for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Peking University president and NPC delegate Xu Zhihong called for a ban on the eating of shark's fin to end to improve the nation's environmental reputation and to discourage lavish spending.

Animal rights advocate Zhang Luping hoped that laws on animals rights would be introduced soon, especially in the light of the approaching Olympics.

"There is an obvious, growing voice [for animal rights protection] among the general public, especially among the younger generation and the intellectuals; it's now up to the government to make the decision," said Ms Zhang, founder of a Beijing pet shelter, who has collected more than 300,000 signatures since October for the introduction of an animal rights law.

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