China’s Wildlife Protection Law (WPL) has long been criticized as a law that promotes wildlife utilization rather than protection.
The 1989 law defines wildlife under its protection as “those precious, endangered terrestrial and aquatic wildlife species and those terrestrial wildlife species with beneficial or important economic and scientific research value.”
Promoted by the law, farming wildlife for the trade of their parts and products has wiped out many of the same species in the wild in China. With tigers, bears and pangolins depleted in the wild in China, the demand for tiger bone, bear paw and pangolin scale now threatens the wild tigers, bears and pangolins in Asia and beyond.
While I feel a revision of the law is long overdue, I am horrified to find that the current revision draft is making matters worse.
- In Item 24-25, it proposes not only to legalize farming of highly endangered animals with a certification system, but also lower the approval to local government level.
- In Item 26, it further legitimizes commercial exploitation of wildlife and widens the loopholes for criminals to profit from wildlife farming and trade with vague languages of “other special purposes.”
- In Item 27, it promotes the use of wildlife parts and derivatives in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), supplements and even food.
In many respects, the revision is a step backwards in applying precautionary principle in wildlife conservation.
It even conflicts with some of the existing laws in China and international agreements.
In the case of tigers, expanding and allowing trade of parts and derivatives from tigers is in violation of China’s State Council 1993 ban of tiger bone and rhino horn trade and use in TCM, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) resolutions on Asian Big Cats and CITES Decision urging countries not to breed tigers for the trade of their parts and derivatives.
Promoting trade and consumption of wildlife is also in direct conflict with China’s Criminal Law. Legislatures to the National People’s Congress recently provided new interpretations of the Criminal Law to make intentionally consume endangered species of wildlife as a criminal offense.
Promoting wildlife trade and utilization also undermines efforts by President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign which specifically banned dishes containing shark fins, bird nests and other protected wildlife at official banquets and receptions. As I wrote in this blog, prominent Chinese artist Yuan Xikun and basketball star Yao Ming have repeatedly urged for the government austerity campaign to ban official gifting and receiving gifts made from wildlife, as tiger bone wine, ivory and rhino horn carvings are routinely used as “corruption currency.”
Furthermore, as China’s consumption and demand for wildlife is stimulating poaching in many parts of the world, threatening the survival of many endangered species already, the draft WPL if adopted will only further fuel that demand and consumption, attract global condemnation and harm China’s image in the world.