News and Commentary

Chinese City Claims It Has Banned Eating Dogs, Cats. Be Skeptical.
Customers walk past pork stalls at the Dancun Market in Nanning, Guangxi province, China, on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. A protracted U.S. trade war, protests in Hong Kong, soaring food prices and the slowest economic growth in decades are among the many problems facing Chinese President Xi Jinping as he prepares to celebrate 70 years of Communist Party rule. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Chinese city of Shenzhen has reportedly banned people from eating dogs and cats as part of an effort to clamp down on the wet markets that are believed to have caused the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“Authorities in the southern Chinese technology hub said the ban on eating dogs and cats would come into force on May 1,” Reuters reported. “Provincial and city governments across the country have been moving to enforce the ruling but Shenzhen has been the most explicit about extending that ban to dogs and cats.”

“Dogs and cats as pets have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals, and banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” the Shenzhen government said in an order. “This ban also responds to the demand and spirit of human civilization.”

The coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, has infected over 950,000 people worldwide and killed well over 48,000, based on reported numbers. There is overwhelming evidence that the real numbers of both cases and deaths is significantly higher than what is being reported.

“Shenzhen’s initial rules, first proposed in late February, [L3N2AR2CQ] appeared to ban the consumption of turtles and frogs — both common dishes in China’s south,” Reuters notes. “But the city government acknowledged this week that this had been a ‘a hot point of controversy’ and clarified that both could be eaten.”

Teresa M. Telecky, the vice president of the wildlife department for Humane Society International, praised China, telling Reuters, “Shenzhen is the first city in the world to take the lessons learned from this pandemic seriously and make the changes needed to avoid another pandemic. Shenzhen’s bold steps to stop this trade and wildlife consumption is a model for governments around the world to emulate.”

However, there is reason to view this move with skepticism because what China did in response to the 2002 outbreak of SARS, which also originated in a Chinese wet market.

A mini documentary released last month by Vox explained and how a combination of laws and prioritization of luxuries for the rich and powerful in China likely contributed to the outbreak. The documentary highlighted how China shut down the wet markets, which are open air markets that sell fresh meat from exotic wild life that has been killed on the spot, after the outbreak in 2002 and then reopened them once it was all over.

Peter Li, Associate Professor at the University of Houston, told Vox, “The majority of the people in China do not eat wildlife animals. Those people who consume these wildlife animals are the rich and the powerful – a small minority.”

“It’s this minority that the Chinese government chose to favor over the safety of the rest of its population,” the documentary adds. “Soon after the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government shut down thousands of wet markets and temporarily banned wildlife trade again. Organizations around the world have been urging China to make the ban permanent.”