China officially classifies dogs as pets, not livestock

China's decision to classify dogs as companion animals rather than livestock is among several changes being made to the country’s livestock and wildlife regulations.

(grigvovan | BigStockPhoto)
(grigvovan | BigStockPhoto)

The Chinese government will make a list of livestock official, which prominently excludes dogs from animals that its citizens can farm and eat, on May 8, 2020. The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in early April 2020 declared dogs to be companion animals.

Typical farm animals remain on livestock list

The ministry's first draft of the Directory of Genetic Resources of Livestock and Poultry lists 18 typical farm animals such as pigs, chickens, cows and rabbits as livestock. They also have a list of 13 “special livestock” that includes minks, foxes and reindeer that can be traded for commercial purposes other than their meat.

"With the progress of human civilization and the public's concern and preference for animal protection, dogs have evolved from traditional livestock to companion animals," said an accompanying explanation of the draft. "They are generally no longer regarded as livestock in the rest of the world. It is not advisable to list them under livestock or poultry in China,” the ministry said.

The ministry made no mention of cats, but many interpret the omission of dogs from the livestock list to extend to cats as both are typically lumped together as companion animals.

The list and COVID-19

Millions of dogs are being slaughtered every year in China and across the region for their meat for daily consumption and for special festivals like the Lychee and Dog Festival in Yulin.

The list of allowed livestock in China also does not include wild civet cats and bats, which have been suspected of spreading viruses to humans before, or pangolins, raised on farms in China which were subsequently shut down in February 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic raised awareness of zoonotic diseases.

The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in horseshoe bats and could have been passed on to humans by intermediary species on sale in the markets in Wuhan, where the pathogen was first identified, according to a Reuters report. China has since banned the breeding, trading and consumption of wildlife and revoked all existing licenses, and promised to revise legislation to make the ban permanent, said Reuters.

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