China Bans Acts
With Wild Animals
Perhaps the announcement was made to coincide with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S. Knowing the topic of human rights violations by his country would be on the table, for example, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to imagine some political wrangling over how to divert the pressure, at least for now.
But be it as it may, the recent ban on circuses’ use of wild animals by the Chinese government does represent a step closer to a new attitude in our relationship with wild animals. In fact there’s a growing movement advocating an end for all instances of captivity of great beasts, regardless if it’s for educational or entertainment purposes.
China’s ban on all wild animal shows in some 300 state-owned zoos and countless live acts, which attract millions of visitors every year, can not be taken lightly. Huge economic and political interests had to be trampled in order to enforce rules that lack any apparent beneficiaries among scores of local politicians and entrepreneurs used to leverage support to the regime in exchange for special favors and business opportunities.
However, the industry as a whole had become a sore point of contention between the government and worldwide activists, with an overwhelming record of terrible abuses against the animal performers. The ban also includes the sale of parts in zoo shops and dishes made out of rare animals served at their restaurants.
The practice of pulling the teeth of baby tigers so that tourists can hold them is no longer legal and neither is the popular sale of live chickens, goats, cows and even horses to visitors with the sole purpose of having them publicly being torn apart by big cats.
So, whether China had ulterior motives to make such a decision, or it was moved out of genuine concern about the welfare of the great beasts, most of them also considered endangered species, it’s irrelevant. The ban on such grotesque performances should set a global standard for all zoos or organizations handling wild animals.
And since we’re talking about goodwill, Mr. Hu, following such an admirable and forward-thinking gesture toward wild animals, what about setting similar high standards for China’s human rights record?