Raise cattle for meat in China

China's Government: Dogs are pets, not livestock

Even the coronavirus has its good sides. Tens of thousands of people die as a result of the pandemic it triggered, and the measures imposed by the state are plunging the world economy into recession.

But the epidemic offers an opportunity for species protection: One of the positive effects of the corona pandemic could be that China finally wants to take steps against the trade in wild animals, or at least want to limit it.

The infection is likely to have its origin in a so-called "wet market" in the city of Wuhan. In these markets - under extremely problematic hygienic conditions - not only meat and fish but also live animals are traded.


According to all previous knowledge, the Chinese coronavirus is likely of zoonotic origin, i.e. it jumped from animals to humans - probably at the end of November at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, the largest city in the central Chinese province of Hubei. Bats and the pangolin are suspected to be the original carriers of the virus, but the Chinese bamboo rat has also been named.

The Sars epidemic from 2002 to 2004 began in a market in China, in Foshan in the southern province of Guangdong. At that time, the larvae roller, a crawling cat species, was held responsible as the original carrier of the virus. The Sars virus has also been detected in other animals such as raccoon dogs, sun badgers and domestic cats. Viruses similar to the Sars virus have also been found in bats.


In February, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress decided to ban the trade and consumption of wild animals as part of the measures against the spread of the coronavirus. A draft published by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture now lists those species that will be permitted in future for animal husbandry for meat and fur production. This includes farm animals such as cattle, pigs and chickens as well as "special livestock" such as ostriches, reindeer or alpacas.

Domesticated and traditionally bred animals include pigs and wild boars, cattle, zebus, buffalo, yaks, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, camels, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pigeons and quails. The second category of "special livestock" includes sika deer, red deer, reindeer, alpacas, guinea fowl, pheasants, partridges, mallards and ostriches, and additionally minks, silver foxes, arctic foxes and raccoon dogs, which are explicitly only used for fur. The inclusion of the latter is criticized by animal welfare organizations because, in contrast to the previous regulations, certain wild animals are now also on the list of livestock.

Regional customs

With sika deer, red deer and reindeer, consideration is given to regional traditional customs of certain ethnic groups. In contrast, surprisingly, this does not apply to dog meat, although this is on the menu in some parts of China. In the appendix to the list of species there is an explicit position on dogs. These are generally not counted as cattle in the world.

Rather, with a view to the progress of human civilization, they belonged to man's companions. This assessment of dogs as pets instead of livestock - for the first time in the history of the People's Republic - is viewed by animal rights activists as a victory.

Dog meat is still not forbidden

However, this does not mean that the sale and consumption of dog meat will be banned in the future. It is also not clear whether the trade and slaughter of imported wild animals could be permitted again in the near future. The consumption of wild animals has so far been tolerated as long as they came from approved breeding.

Wild animals such as pangolins or bats, which have already been slaughtered and consumed in the markets - albeit illegally in principle - are not on the list of the Ministry of Agriculture because they are caught in nature and not bred. They fall under nature conservation laws.

And pets such as dogs and cats are not affected by the regulation. Therefore separate laws would be necessary for a ban on the consumption of domestic animals.

Pressure on the government

The Chinese people can comment on the health ministry's draft ordinance until May 8th. In any case, dealers, breeders and restaurant owners who make a living from selling wild animals and pets are putting pressure on political decision-makers to lift the restrictions again.

The Chinese bamboo rat is also not on the ministry's list, although local authorities in southern China are promoting their breeding for meat production. After all, the rats bring far higher profits to the breeders than, for example, chickens. In the Guangxi Autonomous Region alone, hundreds of thousands of people make a living from breeding rats. They now hope that the rats, which weigh up to five kilograms, will be included in the list of the Ministry of Agriculture. (Michael Vosatka, April 22, 2020)