Consumers of endangered animal products in China face a risk of considerable jail time after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress reinterpreted existing criminal laws last week to put greater pressure on those who eat or purchase protected species.
Chinese law makes it illegal to hunt and buy any of the country’s 420 protected endangered species, which include Asiatic black bears, South China tigers, golden monkeys, and giant pandas. But the statutory language is highly ambiguous.
The change adopted by the Standing Committee redefines what it means to purchase endangered species, making it illegal for anyone to knowingly buy or consume animals that were poached. The aim of the law is to crack down on the demand for endangered species, which are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. Various animal parts are thought to offer assorted health benefits, like preventing cancer or relieving back pain.
Many of these species are also valued as a mark of status. Consumption has boomed in tandem with the country’s economy, and the demand has encouraged large-scale illegal hunting.
Will this have enough of an effect to save these endangered animals? I hope so, but as we all know making something illegal doesn't mean people will stop doing it. I hope it will have an impact anyway.