Chinese newspaper The Paper announced China will be introducing the concept of ‘animal welfare’ into its 1988 Wildlife Protection Law for the first time ever, among other changes.

“Animal welfare within wildlife protection law is a major milestone in the history of global wild animal protection as the vast land of China hosts one of the widest ranges of wildlife in the world,” said Professor Chang Jiwen, vice director of the Research Institute of Resources and Environment Policies under the Development Research Center of the State Council,.

The law, wich hasn’t been changed for 25 years, will also regulate living habitats and breeding conditions of wild animals once passed.

Isobel Zhang, China manager of ACTAsia, said the amendment is a huge step forward but expressed disappointment that pets and farm animals are still not protected.

“It means the law is beginning to aim at animal protection, but the law should clearly state its scope,” Zhang said.

“[It] should also discuss extending the concept to non-wildlife.

“The mainland lacked legislation to punish people who were cruel to animals or who exposed them to unnecessary suffering or harm.

“While the exact benefits to animal welfare are yet to be seen, this could at least help in generally advocating for animal protection.”

Animals Asia welcomed the news. Founder and CEO Jill Robinson said: “Not a week goes by when we are not asked about the possibility of animal welfare legislation being introduced in China.

“There have been times when Chinese animal lovers believed it to be years away. To be talking about it now being submitted and reviewed before the end of 2015 seems miraculous.

“China deserves huge credit for taking this step and in order for this legislation to reach its full potential for positive change we must make sure that it’s worthy of the animals it seeks to defend.

“We will continue to be the animals’ voice and lobby hard, as I’m sure China’s growing ranks of animal lovers will too, as their experience and advice is increasingly taken on board.

“If this is the first step then we hope China’s journey towards eradicating animal cruelty continues in a direction that considers animals as sentient beings.

“We are pleased to be part of the process, together with the public and decision makers across the country, that gives us hope for improved lives for China’s animals and shapes a future free from cruelty.”

Animal Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said: “Science now recognises animals are sentient beings with complex physical and emotional needs.

“Modern laws in China can build on the progress in the animal welfare arena and specify conditions and management practices which promote positive welfare states for animals in captivity.”

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