Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to ban the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat.
If any Taiwanese person is caught selling, purchasing or eating cat and dog meat they could face hefty fines, their photograph and name being made public, and even up to two-years in prison in serious cases.
Elsewhere in the bill, anyone caught intentionally harming or killing animals could face a maximum fine of £52,000. And it’s no longer legal for people in cars or on motorbikes to pull their pets on a lead as they drive.
The bill is in response to several recent animal-rights incidents that shocked Taiwan. The worst of these took place last year when a group of marines hung a small puppy from a wall, before throwing its lifeless body into the ocean.
There was an equally horrific incident in October, when a teenager dubbed the “Taipei cat killer” filmed himself beating two stray cats to death. The student was sentenced to ten-months in prison.
These two high-profiles events caused public outcry and significantly raised awareness about animal-rights.
The Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen, is a famous animal lover who adopted three dogs last year, to join the two adopted cats she already had. These five animals are often referred to as the “first family” by many in Taiwan.
Her reign as president has coincided with a general shift in the perception of dogs and cats in Taiwan. As the middle classes grow more and more people can afford pets, this gradually shifts dogs from meat to part of the family.
Wendy Higgins, who works for animal-rights charity Humane Society International, has welcomed Taiwan’s latest, and most significant, animal protection bill. She said:
Taiwan’s progressive ban is part of a growing trend across Asia to end the brutal dog meat trade, and reflects the fact that a huge number of people in Asian countries do not in fact eat dog and cat and are appalled by the cruel and often crime-fuelled trade.
Taiwan also sends a strong signal to countries such as China and South Korea where the dog meat trade remains and millions of dogs are killed by beating, hanging or electrocution for eating. It’s time for change, and bans like the one in Taiwan utterly dispel the myth that this is promoted by Western sentimentality. The animal protection movement is growing rapidly across Asia and the calls for an end to dog meat cruelty are getting louder and louder.
The consumption of cat meat is very rare in Asia, but up until recently dog meat was a popular delicacy. Neighbouring Hong Kong has already banned the slaughter and sale of animals, and now Taiwan has followed suit. Hopefully their announcement will act as a catalyst for other countries in the region to act.
Sadly, the Yulin dog meat festival still takes place in China each year. The BBC reported that a staggering 10,000 dogs and cats were killed at the festival in 2016 alone. That upsetting figure lead to widespread domestic and international opposition to the festival. More than 11 million people signed a petition calling for the event to be stopped.
The Burmese city of Mong-La, which sits very close to the border with China, is also a hotspot for the consumption and sales of dog meat. ‘Sin City’ has a sinister reputation of eating animals, a worrying sex industry, and gambling.
The tradition of eating dogs dates back more than 500 years in China and South Korea. It was originally felt that eating dog meat would help people stay cool during summer. Back then there was noway to know if that were true, but now times have changed and humans have developed there’s no reason for us to consume dog or cat meat.
These new amendments have been welcomed by animal-rights activists and groups across the globe, and represent a new era in Taiwan where dogs and cats are seen as pets, not food.