China has drawn up new guidelines to reclassify dogs as pets, rather than livestock, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak — a move that the Humane Society called a “game-changer” in animal welfare.
The pathogen, which has infected more than 1.5 million people worldwide since it emerged in the Asian nation, is widely believed to have originated in horseshoe bats and passed to humans through other species on sale in a wildlife market in Wuhan.
Dog meat remains a delicacy in parts of China, although it is increasingly unpopular and has been banned as food in at least one Chinese city.
“As far as dogs are concerned, along with the progress of human civilization and the public concern and love for animal protection, dogs have been ‘specialized’ to become companion animals, and internationally are not considered to be livestock, and they will not be regulated as livestock in China,” the Ministry of Agriculture said in a notice Wednesday.
The livestock designation means animals can be bred for food, milk, fur, fiber, and medicine, or to be used in sports or military activity.
China also banned the breeding, trading, and consumption of wildlife following the outbreak — and has promised to make that ban permanent.
The draft guidelines published this week identifies 18 species as livestock, including cattle, pigs, poultry, and camels.
It also added another 13 “‘special” species that would be exempt from wildlife trading, including reindeer, alpaca, pheasants, ostriches, and foxes.
Last month, the Chinese city of Shenzhen became the first in the country to officially ban the consumption of dogs.
Still, Humane Society International estimates that 10 million dogs a year are killed for meat in China, including stolen pets, and the city of Yulin still holds annual dog meat festivals.
“This draft proposal could signal a game-changer moment for animal protection in China,” society spokeswoman Wendy Higgins told Reuters.
With Post Wires