China Making News on Animal Problems
China has four times as many people as the United States, even though the countries are about the same physical size. China has never had a philanthropic sector devoted to animal protection, so there’s been no long-term warming up of the people on the issue of welfare. Those two factors – an enormous human population, and few restraints or influences to guide people on animal welfare – have created a very dangerous situation for animals. China has not only been implicated as the world’s leading consumer of elephant ivory, rhino horn, shark fins, tiger parts, and so many other wildlife trade-related products, but it’s also become the biggest factory farming nation in the world.
I’ve asked our own Peter Li, China Policy Specialist for Humane Society International, for his thoughts about waterlogged dead pigs and bird flu that have recently been in the news in the country.
Food safety and public health concerns are once again big news in China. In March, the carcasses of thousands of pigs were found floating down the Huangpu River in Shanghai, raising serious concerns about the safety of the water supply. Soon afterward, a new strain of bird flu, H7N9, was reported in Shanghai and adjacent areas. The virus has infected 43 people in China, killing 11 of them, and caused the government to cull large numbers of ducks and other birds in order to prevent further spread of the disease. Animal protection advocates around the globe are calling on Chinese officials to euthanize these animals as humanely as possible during this mass culling operation.
Such incidents once again draw attention to challenges facing the nation’s expanding farm animal sector. China is already the world’s largest egg and meat producer, and continues to further industrialize its production systems – pushing animals off the land and onto factory farms. Egg laying hens and pregnant sows are frequently confined in barren battery cages and gestation crates that prevent the animals from moving freely or experiencing most of their natural behaviors.
However, there is a burgeoning animal welfare movement in China, and reason to think that it will gain traction. A growing number of these groups are directing their efforts toward improving farm animal welfare. In partnership with Humane Society International, Chinese activists succeeded in shutting down a massive foie gras project in Southeast China in 2012, and “Meat-free Monday” will soon be introduced to many Chinese college campuses.
We are working to improve animal welfare and stem the spread of factory farming in China and other parts of Asia. You can count on this being a priority for us over the next few years.