Last week, Chinese authorities cracked down on zoos and wildlife parks, ordering 53 parks to improve the conditions for their animals and revoking another 7 parks’ certifications.
The State Forestry Agency has six teams investigating over 500 zoos and parks displaying animals across the country. The investigation has been going on since October.
The agents found problems ranging from parks being too broke to provide basic care for their animals to parks trading in illegal animal products. The inspectors said that the poor management of the parks was leading to the deaths of rare species, as well as human injuries from animal attacks and accidents.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare office in Beijing has said it views these recent investigations as a step in the right direction. The campaign manager there said that the Chinese would be unhappy to learn about the abuses in some of the zoos.
It is impossible to tell if China’s decision to crack down on zoos has anything to do with recent outrage among animal activists over the way animals are treated in China. Pictures from the Animal Olympics in China of bears driving scooters across tight ropes or kangaroos boxing humans has incited a lot of vitriol from animal lovers.
While there are a lot of foreigners who criticize the Chinese for their treatment of animals, the cause of animal rights is very small in China–but it is growing. A Chinese legislator proposed China’s first national animal welfare law in 2006, but it failed to pass.
As much as we may want to laud the efforts of the Chinese for taking steps to finally bring its rampant animal abuse under control, we have the benefit of future-sight when it comes to these issues. The west’s modern secular animal rights community is older and more developed than China’s, and we can attest with certainty that regulation of animal entertainment hasn’t been effective in ending animal cruelty.
We have more and stricter laws for the care of animals in zoos and parks than China does, but we still see animals starved and tortured without proper veterinary care. The solution to the question of how to end animal cruelty isn’t answered by tougher regulations or more severe penalties for violations.
The truth is that animal exploitation ends when we no longer view animals as property. Animals are no more meant for our entertainment than they are meant for our consumption.
To the small group of dedicated animal activists working in China, the best advice we can offer is to work for the end of zoos instead of working for the regulation of zoos, and work to end animal consumption instead of working to regulate animal welfare.