The Asian black bear is one of the endangered species you can no longer eat in China. (Photo: RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images)
Authorities in China have approved a new measure that makes it illegal — under punishment of jail time — to eat rare wild animals.
"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 parliament's Legislative Affairs Commission, told reporters.
China is currently home to about 420 species of endangered animals. While you couldn't hunt them before this week, buying or eating them was perfectly legal. That grey area allowed for a large and thriving poaching trade, and a correspondingly large black market in many Chinese cities. Now, anyone caught consuming monkeys or black bear bile (thought by some to have healing qualities) could find themselves in prison for as long as 10 years.
Many endangered animals have been consumed in China for centuries, for both food and for medicinal purposes. These species include the Asian black bear, the snub-nosed monkey, the giant panda, the golden monkey and the pangolin — which, as we told you a few weeks ago, might be the most heavily trafficked animal on earth.
Consumption of endangered animals has actually increased lately, as the country has become richer and the food and healing products made with endangered animals has taken on luxury status and social cache, according to a recent United Nations report on illegal wildlife trade in East Asia and the Pacific.
"In fact, buyers are a major motivator of large-scale illegal hunting," said Lang Sheng.