China Outlaws the Eating of Tiger Penis, Rhino Horn, and Other Endangered Animal Products
By Kayla Ruble
May 2, 2014 | 9:20 pm
Consumers of endangered animal products in China face a risk of considerable jail time after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress reinterpreted existing criminal laws last week to put greater pressure on those who eat or purchase protected species.
Chinese law makes it illegal to hunt and buy any of the country’s 420 protected endangered species, which include Asiatic black bears, South China tigers, golden monkeys, and giant pandas. But the statutory language is highly ambiguous.
The change adopted by the Standing Committee redefines what it means to purchase endangered species, making it illegal for anyone to knowingly buy or consume animals that were poached. The aim of the law is to crack down on the demand for endangered species, which are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. Various animal parts are thought to offer assorted health benefits, like preventing cancer or relieving back pain.
Many of these species are also valued as a mark of status. Consumption has boomed in tandem with the country’s economy, and the demand has encouraged large-scale illegal hunting.
‘Rhino horn and deer musk can be more valuable than gold or cocaine.’
While activists would prefer the language of the protection statute to be strengthened, they welcome the new interpretation.
“This is very good in its own way,” Grace Gabriel, the Asia director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), told VICE News. “This interpretation is finally making it illegal to knowingly consume endangered species and their products.”
An IFAW report on the illegal wildlife trade says that it’s the fourth most profitable criminal activity in the world, after drug smuggling, financial counterfeiting, and human trafficking. China is the world’s largest consumer of illegal wildlife products, which include rhino horn, bear bile, and tiger bone.
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Profits for endangered species and their body parts are sky-high. Ivory can go for $1,000 a pound on the streets of Beijing, and the pangolin — an anteater whose scales are used to disperse blood stasis and promote pus discharge, and whose meat is considered a delicacy — can fetch up to $324 a dish at local restaurants. A report published in March noted that the pangolin is the world’s most heavily trafficked endangered animal.
According to the IFAW report, rhino horn and deer musk can be more valuable than gold or cocaine. A single gland from Asia’s musk deer can fetch upwards of $250. The musk is used for cardiac, circulatory, and respiratory problems.
The belief that consuming certain animals enables the absorption of their attributes has endured throughout Chinese history.
Nearly every part of a tiger’s body is believed to offer some sort of health benefit. Its blood is thought to build willpower, and its bones are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect capable of treating arthritis, headaches, and all manner of swelling. Its eyeballs are used to ease epilepsy, malaria, and cataracts. The tiger’s penis is particularly prized as an aphrodisiac, and is commonly prepared by soaking the dried member in water and then simmering it with herbal ingredients.
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