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January 27, 2010

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Law would keep cats, dogs off the menu

EATING cats and dogs might result in a 15-day detention, according to a draft of a new anti-animal abuse law that has rekindled an old controversy on the Internet.

The draft also stipulates that people who eat cats and dogs should be fined as much as 5,000 yuan (US$732) and restaurants found offering cats and dogs on menus fined as much as 500,000 yuan.

The main advocate of the law, Chang Jiwen, said the draft could help break down trade barriers imposed on China's animal products, such as leather and fur.

Some Western countries are banning imports of Chinese animal products, citing inhumane treatment to animals in the country.

Chang told Beijing News that he was confident the National People's Congress, China's parliament, would pass the law within 10 years. He said the draft will soon be finished and sent to authorities for revision this April.

Chang said the committee in charge of drafting the law has received more than 400 phone calls and 300 e-mails commenting on the proposal. Most of them agreed with the necessity of such a statute.

He said banning cats and dogs from dining tables would not influence people's daily life.

Other than exporters of animal products, cat and dog lovers applauded the draft.

Animal lovers took to the street in several protests last year to urge local governments to stop people from eating cats and dogs.

Several animal-protection groups have occasionally ambushed trucks sending bamboo cages filled with cats to south China's Guangdong Province, where people have a taste for unusual ingredients.

Yet in a survey conducted on a news Web portal, 63 percent of 23,000 total voters said the draft law is not practical.

Opponents argued that the law is designed only to pander to Western values. They noted that dog meat is eaten in several Asian countries, including China and South Korea, as an historic cuisine.

Cat meat is an important ingredient in a noted Cantonese soup originating in Guangdong. Dog meat hot pot is considered a nutritious food in winter in some places of the country.

Others said stray cats are getting out of control, roaming in many cities, and have become a great nuisance to people as they defecate in gardens and garages and make terrible noises at night.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, all official Olympic restaurants were ordered to take dog meat off the menu to avoid offending foreign visitors.


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