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China looks to crackdown on eating endangered animals

2014-05-20 16:01 CNTV Web Editor: Li Yan

In late April, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress tightened China's laws on the illegal wildlife trade. For the first time, eating endangered species became a criminal offence. 

Guangdong cuisine is one of the most famous in China. It's known not just for its unique cooking methods and flavors, but also its wide array of ingredients. There's a saying among locals that anything that walks, crawls, flies or swims can be eaten. That can include animals like snakes, birds, ant-eaters, and more.... even if they belong to the list of endangered and protected species.

The NPC's new judicial interpretation says if a person knowingly buys an endangered animal to eat or for other illegal purposes, they could face between 5 to 10 years in prison.

Xu Weiqiang and his team at Guangzhou's Wildlife Protection Office inspect key markets and restaurants at least once a month. And while it's difficult to capture illegal traders in the act, the toughened laws could encourage the public to become more involved.

"We plan to cooperate with the Forestry, Agriculture, and Fisheries departments to start cracking down on illegal wildlife trading. We also hope the public will follow healthy eating habits and help promote awareness on wildlife protection: No killing and no trading," Xu Weiqiang said.

There are 420 animals on China's official list of protected and endangered species. Many are targeted by poachers and black market traders for their meat, organs or body fluids, which are considered by some to be delicacies prized for their supposed medicinal properties. Authorities hope that those hungry for a taste of the wildlife will now think twice before taking a bite.

Changes in the law show that China is serious about animal welfare. But changing old habits of eating game animals is set to be a challenging task for the government. Many believe, this is just the start of the war against illegal poaching.

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