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China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) voted yesterday to approve a new interpretation of the country’s criminal law that will allow to punish the eating of rare wild animals with jail time.

Under the new law, 420 species of rare or endangered wild animals are now protected, including giant pandas, golden monkeys and pangolins.

People who eat any animal of these species or purchase illegally hunted animals could now face sentences of more than 10 years in jail, national newspaper Xinhua reported.

“Eating rare wild animals is not only bad social conduct but also a main reason why illegal hunting has not been stopped despite repeated crackdowns,” Lang Sheng, deputy head of the legislative affairs commission of the NPC standing committee, told Xinhua.

The Chinese government has pledged to fight wildlife crime with tougher legislation and more crackdowns.

In February, an international operation led by China cracked over 350 cases involving more than 400 suspects, and seized over three tonnes of ivory and ivory products and over a thousand hides.

“This follows recent changes in the law that made it no longer compulsory in China to test cosmetics on animals. There are increased signs that the government is prepared to use the law to safeguard animals and in doing so they are reflecting a changing China,” said Jill Robinson, founder of Animals Asia.

“It’s another piece in the legal jigsaw that will hopefully help us work towards bear bile farming being outlawed. In addition China’s animal lovers have long been requesting laws that can be used to combat animal cruelty. ”

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