China’s president visits US as new animal welfare law goes into effect

Chinese President Hu Jintao is welcomed to the United States this week, and many Americans are expecting President Obama to confront the world leader on China’s dismal human rights policies. Generally, in places where human rights are ignored or denied, concern for animal welfare hardly registers.

China is no exception. A 2010 report by the nonprofit organization Animals Asia confirmed allegations of widespread abuse and suffering throughout the country. The reality is difficult to accept: Performance animals endure frequent, harsh beatings. Zoos do not provide adequate food. Medical care, companionship, and mental stimulation are nearly non-existent. For a great number of the country’s animals, life is hell.

So it’s interesting that Hu’s visit to the U.S. Congress coincides with the implementation of China’s newest animal welfare law. Last October, a national ban was placed on the sale of performance animals, and a campaign promoting humane treatment was launched. News of the ban, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of the January, surprised and encouraged me.  

In our country, and obviously world wide, we have such a long way to go when it comes to comprehensive animal welfare. For now, we must recognize and build on the momentum of even these small steps. And maybe one day it will sink in that animal welfare includes human rights (humans are, in fact, animals) and that ensuring basic compassion to all individuals need not be broken down by species.

China, arguably, leads the world in economic growth and its development leaves no one unimpressed. What if they were to apply that same dedication to creating a more humane planet? Imagine the results…