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Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: History in the making as China launches its first ever animal cruelty laws

The RSPCA is welcoming China's first ever draft animal protection laws which are unveiled tomorrow (Friday 18 September).

The legislation, which has been drawn up in consultation with the RSPCA, will include provisions to both protect pets and cover how farm animals should be raised, transported and slaughtered. It will also deliver protection for captive wildlife and laboratory animals.

The laws address deliberate cruelty and several of the most serious issues that have concerned the international animal welfare community for many years - including inhumane culling methods used against dogs, the live skinning of animals for their fur and the feeding of live farm animals to big cats in zoos and wildlife parks.

"This launch sees the culmination of more than a decade of RSPCA activity in China. Since 1999 we have been working steadily there to promote the principles of animal welfare," says Paul Littlefair, senior programme manager with the RSPCA's International Department.

"It is a very significant landmark - when it is passed it will be the first time in China's history that the state is sending a clear message to every citizen: 'the way we treat animals matters'."

The RSPCA welcomed the draft legislation as a 'huge step' but stressed the challenge now is to see the academics and politicians steer it through the legislative process and warned that there are even bigger hurdles in enforcing the law consistently.

To this end, the RSPCA said it is committed to supporting implementation through providing advice, aid and training to the Chinese authorities and animal protection organisations.

This is a long-term process, says the RSPCA, and the law will not be passed without broad popular support and increased awareness of the needs of animals. So alongside the legislation work the RSPCA has launched a joint project with the Chinese Ministry of Education to incorporate animal welfare values into the curriculum, covering topics such as respect for life, responsibility and caring for animals.

Under this project the RSPCA has already delivered three training courses to more than 200 teachers from ten provinces and cities across China.

Currently in China, only endangered species are protected and there is no penalty for abusing or killing other animals. Over the last few years, reports have increased of deliberate animal cruelty, and several high-profile incidents have attracted widespread public condemnation and intense media coverage within China. Earlier this year the inhumane methods used in the indiscriminate and large-scale killing of around 30,000 dogs following rabies outbreaks in China attracted not only international but also domestic criticism.

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