Shenzhen, in southeastern China, has become the first city in the country to ban the consumption of cats and dogs, the government announced Thursday.Under new rules which will come into effect May 1, the government said it will be illegal to eat animals raised as pets.
It comes after the coronavirus outbreak was linked to wildlife meat, prompting Chinese authorities to ban the trade and consumption of wild animals.
Thirty million dogs a year are killed across Asia for meat, says Humane Society International (HSI).
However, the practice of eating dog meat in China is not that common – the majority of Chinese people have never done so and say they don’t want to.
“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 city government said, according to a Reuters report.
Dogs, in particular, are eaten in several parts of Asia.
Liu Jianping, an official with the Shenzhen Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said that the poultry, livestock and seafood available to consumers were sufficient.
“There is no evidence showing that wildlife is more nutritious than poultry and livestock,” Liu was quoted as saying by the state-owned media Shenzhen Daily.
Shenzhen’s initial rules, first proposed in late February, appeared to ban the consumption of turtles and frogs – both common dishes in China’s south.
Animal advocacy organisation HSI praised the move.
“This really could be a watershed moment in efforts to end this brutal trade that kills an estimated 10 million dogs and 4 million cats in China every year,” said Dr Peter Li, China policy specialist for HSI.
The COVID-19 pandemic is thought to have originated in a market in Wuhan, which sold wild animals and their meat. After this information came to light, China announced a temporary ban at the national level on the consumption and trade of wildlife in February.