According to a draft released by the Beijing municipal government on its website earlier this month, regulations for the humane treatment and welfare of animals were to be prescribed for the first time in the country's history.
But the draft was withdrawn on Wednesday, just four days later, without any explanation. Sources within the city's Legal Affairs Office said the draft had already been declared impractical by experts, and there are no other plans for animal welfare legislation within the next five years.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a non-governmental organization, said it was sorry to hear about the decision.
"More than 100 countries, including some developing countries in Africa, have adopted laws against abusing animals, but China has not," an IFAW statement said. "China has to legislate animal welfare if the country's livestock husbandry wants to follow international practices."
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has rules to ensure that animals are treated humanely as they are raised, transported and slaughtered. The export of animal products will be negatively influenced if animal rights are violated.
IFAW disagrees with the experts who believe that although animal welfare legislation is a good thing, it is not practical in a still-developing nation such as China. IFAW officials believe that the state of China's economy is far enough along to allow for the rules.
Many Chinese legal experts, as well as members of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, are appealing for the drafting of a law on animal welfare as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, a commentary published in the China Youth Daily said it is reasonable and convincing for local Beijing authorities to suspend animal rights legislation now.
"According to the draft, if an animal is to be killed for financial gain, it should be sedated and slaughtered quickly. It should be isolated to ensure that other animals cannot see the killing procedure. But the regulation will be difficult to enforce in real life," said Xi Xuchu.
"Most of the people slaughtering domestic animals for meat in China now would violate the regulation. It will be difficult to punish all of the people who do so, which is expected to be many."
Xi concluded that pre-legislation practicality is wiser than handing a lot of problems to law enforcement.
However, Xi did confirm that protecting animal rights is beneficial.
"Although the regulation will not be published that soon, I believe it will be adopted by authorities in the future," Xi said.
The principles of the proposed animal welfare law were to ensure freedom from thirst and hunger, pain and suffering, and fear and sorrow.
China does not have a law to ensure animal welfare now.
A regulation concerning animals used in experiments is expected to come under discussion soon.
(China Daily May 17, 2004)