Chinese authorities have excluded dogs from a proposed list of animals that can be farmed for meat, a potentially game-changing move that comes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been linked to the country’s controversial wildlife-farming industry.

A draft document published this week by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs features a list of animals that would be considered livestock, including chicken, turkey, sheep and ducks. But for the first time ever, the government explicitly addressed the consumption of dog meat, a common and contentious culinary choice in parts of Asia.

“With the progress of human civilization and the public’s concern and preference for animal protection, dogs have changed from traditional domestic animals to companion animals,” the government said, according to a translation by Humane Society International.

“Dogs are generally not regarded as livestock and poultry around the world, and China should also not manage them as livestock and poultry,” the document reportedly states.

Humane Society officials welcome the news on Friday, saying they hope the document signals a pivotal moment toward ending the country’s dog and cat meat trade.

“This is the first time we’ve ever seen China’s national government explain that dogs are companion animals,” Dr. Peter Li, the nonprofit’s China policy specialist, said in a statement. “Recognizing that dogs hold a special bond with humans is an essential first step towards eliminating the consumption and trade in dog meat.”

The list has not been finalized, but it was posted online to gather feedback from the public.

China’s wildlife-farming industry has been under increasing scrutiny in recent months as experts believe the coronavirus pandemic originated in a busy wet market in Wuhan, a major city in the country’s Hubei province.

The first positive cases of COVID-19 are all linked to the site and studies suggest the virus may have originated from contact with bats, one of many exotic animals sold in that market, before it began spreading from person to person.

The Wuhan market also sells birds, rabbits, hedgehogs, frogs and even snakes.

The government’s latest livestock list would still allow the use of deer, alpaca, ostrich, silver fox, racoon dogs and other wild animals as livestock.

Dr. Teresa Telecky, vice president of wildlife at Humane Society, called the inclusion of some of those animals “concerning.”

“Rebranding wildlife as livestock doesn’t alter the fact that there are insurmountable challenges to keeping these species in commercial captive breeding environments, and that their welfare needs simply can’t be met,” she said. “In addition, there’s clear evidence that some of these species can act as intermediate hosts of viruses, such as COVID-19, which is why we’re urging governments around the world to stop trading in wildlife.”


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