Analyzing animal welfare

Updated: 2011-12-21 08:06

(China Daily)

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Comment on "Don't lecture China on animal welfare" (China Daily website, Dec 7)

Animal welfare is about reducing unnecessary pain and suffering of animals, but within a particular human-animal context. The welfare standards applied to ducks raised on a farm are and should be different from those applied to ducks hunted for sport.

Different contexts can exist side by side in one and the same country. But between countries, the different contexts acquire different meanings. Cockfighting and bullfighting are popular sports in some countries but banned in others, where they are considered cruel. As the article says, the ways in which people interact with animals in China may often be different from the ways of the West.

There, however, is a vast difference between China investigating and improving welfare standards in a particular national context, and China being cajoled into abandoning traditional interactions with animals because it offends distant people in distant lands.

The shark-fin soup debate is a classic case in point. Environmental activists unfairly brand Chinese people as "public enemies" by claiming that the fins are cut off live sharks. Actually, most shark fins come from dead sharks, and most of them are a byproduct of European shark-meat fisheries. Ironically, the European fisheries are responsible for over-fishing many shark species.

China should not bow to global pressure in such cases. Rather it should continue to promote a policy of tolerance, respect and understanding for the many different ways that different people and cultures interact with animals.

Charlie Lim, via e-mail

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(China Daily 12/21/2011 page9)