Chinese City Bans Eating Cats and Dogs After Coronavirus Linked to Wildlife Meat

The Chinese city of Shenzhen has passed a law that bans the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat—making it the first city in the country to do so.

The ban will come into effect on May 1 as part of food safety legislation known as the "Shenzhen Special Economic Region Regulation on a Comprehensive Ban on the Consumption of Wild Animals."

Proposed in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, the legislation permanently bans the consumption, breeding and sale of wildlife—such as snakes, lizards and other wild animals—for human consumption in the city.

The legislation also contains an article that the consumption of "pet animals—such as dogs and cats—is not allowed. Animals that are permitted to be eaten include pigs, cattle, sheep, donkeys, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons and quails, among others.

The ban will apply to restaurants and shops in Shenzhen—located in southeastern China—as well as markets where live cats and dogs are sold.

"Dogs and cats as pets have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals, and banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan," a spokesperson for the Shenzhen government said. "This ban also responds to the demand and spirit of human civilization."

Animal protection non-profit Humane Society International (HSI)—an organization that has long campaigned for the end of the dog meat trade in China—welcomed the latest move from the Shenzhen authorities, describing it as a "watershed moment" in efforts to ban the practice across the whole country.

"With Shenzhen taking the historic decision to become mainland China's first city to ban dog and cat meat consumption, this really could be a watershed moment in efforts to end this brutal trade that kills an estimated 10 million dogs and four million cats in China every year," Peter Li, China policy specialist for HSI, said in a statement. "The majority of these companion animals are stolen from people's back yards or snatched from the streets, and are spirited away on the backs of trucks to be beaten to death in slaughterhouses and restaurants across China."

"Shenzhen is China's fifth-largest city so although the dog meat trade is fairly small there compared with the rest of the province, its true significance is that it could inspire a domino effect with other cities following suit. Most people in China don't eat dog or cat meat, and there is considerable opposition to the trade particularly among younger Chinese," he said.

dog meat trade, China
A group of dogs rescued from a dog slaughterhouse in Yulin, China, before the start of the dog meat festival, in June 2018. HSI

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no clear evidence to date indicating that pets, such as cats and cats, can spread the virus to humans. However, the WHO does note that the dog meat trade in China spreads rabies and increases the risk of cholera.

"Shenzhen is the first city in the world to take the lessons learned from this pandemic seriously and make the changes needed to avoid another pandemic," Teresa Telecky, vice president of HSI's wildlife department, said in a statement. "People around the world are suffering the impact of this pandemic because of one thing: the wildlife trade. Shenzhen's bold steps to stop this trade and wildlife consumption is a model for governments around the world to emulate. We urge all governments to follow suit by banning wildlife trade, transport and consumption for any purpose."

The COVID-19 pandemic is thought to have originated in a market in Wuhan, which sold wild animals and their meat. After this information came to light, China announced a temporary ban at the national level on the consumption and trade of wildlife in February.