Time to ban the sale of products from endangered species

Updated: 2016-01-01 07:36

By Peter Liang(HK Edition)

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A local television station last week showed a recent documentary that drew viewers' attention to the demise of the sea horses that used to thrive in the warm waters of the South China Sea. The wildlife investigators in the show traced the cause of this environmental tragedy to the many herbal medicine stores in Hong Kong. In these stores, dehydrated sea horse carcasses are sold to customers who believe in the medicinal powers of the dead marine creatures.

Indeed, Hong Kong has earned the dubious honor of hosting a thriving trade in animal products, including ivory, rhino horns, tiger penises, bear gall bladders and, of course, sea horses, that has led indirectly to the slaughter of various endangered species from the African savannas to the Asian jungles.

Various environmental groups have called for a blanket ban on the trade of all products obtained from the killing of endangered species. Although the government has said that it is open to taking tougher action against the trade in endangered animal species, it has not initiated the legislative process to pass the relevant law.

Legislators obviously have been getting impatient at the government's inaction. Early last month, they passed a non-binding motion urging the authorities to step up efforts to clamp down on the smuggling of ivory tusks and products from other species considered to be endangered. The motion was passed by a majority of legislators across the political spectrum.

Environmentalists and animal rights advocates have argued that stepping up enforcement and increasing penalties against smugglers will not be enough to deter offenders. They are right, because the strong demand by local customers and mainland visitors willing to pay a high price for what they believe to be major drugs will keep the supply flowing.

The only way to stop this abominable traffic in endangered species is to ban the retail sales of these products in Hong Kong.

And, of course, the public should be educated to recognize that eating dried sea horses is not going to do much good to their backbones. If they have such a problem, they are better advised to drink more milk.

(HK Edition 01/01/2016 page5)