BEIJING: Researchers of a Chinese government think-tank have defended their proposals to ban the eating of dogs and cats in the face of criticism that it would destroy local traditions.
A proposed anti-animal abuse regulation suggests a prohibition on cooking dogs and cats with the risk of a 5,000-yuan ($732) fine or even imprisonment.
Chang Jiwen, a researcher with the Law Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the chief drafter of the initiative, told Xinhua Thursday that it was utterly inhumane to kill the dogs and cats.
"Opposition to animal abuse is the legacy of time-honored Chinese culture," he said.
However, the proposed ban invited criticism, especially from areas accustomed to eat dog meat.
The worst affected area if the proposed act was passed might be ethnic minority regions that have long histories of eating dog.
Song Ziyan, a journalist in Yanbian city of northeast China's Jilin Province, is of the Korean ethnic group, which regards dog meat as a delicacy.
"Eating dog meat is the custom of Koreans. We cook it for respected guests," Song told Xinhua. "We raise dogs for eating and don't eat pets."
The proposal also concerned producers of dog meat in Pei county of eastern Jiangsu Province. The cooking of Pei Dog Meat is on the province's intangible cultural heritage list.
Fan Xiantao, president of the local cultivation guild, said the eating of dogs in Pei county could be traced back more than 2,000 years.
"Daochijiankuang" said in a post on Jinhu BBS, "The petting of dogs belongs to Western culture, and we are entitled to maintain our own food habits."
"Sky-rocketing" on Tianya BBS wrote, "I don't eat dog meat. But I shouldn't infringe other people's rights to eat it.
"I oppose the cruel killing of stray dogs by some local governments, but this simple ban is too stern and poorly founded legally. The proper way is to foster the attitude of respecting life."
Chang said the proposal was not a one-cut-for-all regulation and local legislators could decide whether to put it into force in line with ethnic and local customs.
Chang said a dog-eating ban would have advantages such as inviting more overseas investment from those likely to withdraw from a dog-eating country.
Li Zongyun, professor of life sciences with Xuzhou Normal University, said, "A better solution is to distinguish between pet dogs and eating dogs. Pet killing should be banned and abuse of eating dogs avoided."
The city government of Hanzhong in northwestern Shaanxi Province killed more than 34,000 dogs in a campaign against rabies in 2009, triggering strong calls for animal protection legislation in China, which has no animal welfare law.