For the first time ever, consumers of endangered animals (not just vendors and sellers) will be liable for prosecution in China. This significant step is just one of the ways that China is trying to crack down on the trade of endangered animals. The new legislation will help to protect 420 species of wild animals that are considered rare or endangered by the Chinese government. Those purchasing such animals will face between five and ten years in jail depending on the degree of the offense.
Campaigns such as “Say No” by WildAid, recently endorsed by David Beckham and the Duke of Cambridge are examples of how China is trying to preserve its wildlife’s future. China’s rich wildlife has been under threat for a long time with the use of animal parts, such as shark fin and bear bile, commonplace in medicine and food. The new laws will help to stop illegal hunters from selling their goods and getting around a legal system where they were able to survive most of the previous crackdowns, and they also clear up legal ambiguities that were being used to help traders escape punishment.
China’s dangerous appetite for rare animals has left many of their indigenous animals, such as the salamander, pangolin and sharks, verging on extinction. Buying something rare and potentially illegal in a restaurant is often seen as a symbol of status to those wanting to flaunt their wealth. A Global Post report on the issue said: ” Estimates vary, but the illicit animal trade is believed to be worth more than $10 billion annually in China. The trade kills protected bears, tigers, snakes, turtles, fish and just about anything that has or once had a pulse.” The Standing Committee of the national People’s Congress made the decision to change the law, and blamed the wealthy Asian community who have the cash to spend on such delicacies for exacerbating the problem.
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