Artificial Breeding of Wildlife: Evolution of Chinese Law and Regulation

March 2, 2021Zihao Yu

Introduction

Artificial breeding of wildlife is allowed in China according to the Wildlife Protection Law. The current legal framework is under the Wildlife Protection Law (2018 amendment) and its implementing rules and regulations. The law was created in 1988 and was revised in 2016. The latest revision process started in 2020 after the pandemic of COVID-19. There is no official translation for the Chinese name “野生动物保护法,” which could be translated either as the Wildlife Protection Law or Wildlife Conservation Law.*Please note that the Chinese name does not change.


Before 2020, the species that were allowed for artificial breeding are within the List of National Key Protected Aquatic Wild Animals for Artificial Breeding or List of National Key Protected Terrestrial Wild Animals in 2017, including sika deer, red deer, common ostrich, greater rhea, Giant Asian pond turtle, Nile crocodile, saltwater crocodile, siamese crocodile, hoplobatrachus tigerinus, golden coin turtle, Chinese giant salamander, Chinese high-fin banded shark, Wattle-necked softshell turtle, trachidermus fasciatus, and Golden-line barbel.


After 2020, only the terrestrial animals that belong to the list of National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources, 2020 can be artificially bred for food consumption purpose, which includes sika deer, red deer, reindeer, alpaca, turkey, guinea fowl, pheasant, partridge, muscovy, mallard, ostrich, emu, mink*, silver fox*, arctic fox*, raccoon dog*. (* These species are not for the purpose of food consumption.)


Historical analysis

The wildlife was regulated for the first time in China in 1983 in the document of “A Circular Decree of the State Council Concerning Strict Protection of Precious and Rare Wild Animals” (1983) (Decree No. 62 [1983] of the State Council). The first Wildlife Protection Law, “Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife was published in 1988. The law was amended two times according to the changes in the Criminal Law and Public Security Penalties Law in 2004 (2004 Amendment) and 2009 (2009 Amendment). From 2015 to 2016, the law was revised through 3 draft versions, and the Revision was published in 2016 as “Wild Animal Conservation Law of the People's Republic of China (2016 Revision).” Further, the law was amended in 2018 with some detailed expressions. After the pandemic of COVID-19, the law was under a new revision process in 2020.

Wildlife Protection Law was followed by two implementing regulations which are Implementation Regulation of the Peoples' Republic of China on the Protection of Terrestrial Wild Animals (1992, amended in 2011 and 2016) and Implementation Regulations of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Aquatic Wild Animals (1993, amended in 2011 and 2013). Domestication and breeding were regulated in the Measures for the Administration of the Domestication and Breeding License of Wild Animals under Special State Protection (1991, revised in 2015).

The list of National Key Protected Wild Animals was promulgated in 1988, and revised in 2003 and 2021. In 2021, the National Key Protected Wild Animals was revised, including 980 species in 8 categories. On the basis of all the species in the original list, 517 species (types) of wild animals were added to the new list. 65 species of jackal and Yangtze finless porpoise have been upgraded from the national second-level protected wild animals to the first-level.


In 2003, temporarily strict control measures were implemented in all aspects of wild animal hunting, sale, purchase, transportation, import and export, domestication, and breeding by the government as the impact of SARS.


The List of National Key Protected Aquatic Wild Animals for Artificial Breeding was promulgated by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2017, the List of National Key Protected Terrestrial Wild Animals in Artificial Breeding was promulgated by the State Forestry Administration in 2017.

In 2020, wildlife trade was temporarily banned, and artificial breeding for food purposes was banned as the impact of COVID-19.


The list of Terrestrial animals that be raised for food consumption is limited to the list of National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources, 2020. The Catalogue includes 33 species, which are divided into two categories as 17 species of Traditional livestock and poultry (Pigs, common cattle, zebu, buffalo, yak, large-headed cattle, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, camels, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, quail) and 16 species of Special livestock and poultry (Sika deer, red deer, reindeer, alpaca, turkey, guinea fowl, pheasant, partridge, muscovy, mallard, ostrich, emu, mink*, silver fox*, arctic fox*, raccoon dog*. (* These species are not for the purpose of food consumption.) Animals within this list shall be regulated under the Livestock Law.


"Greater Rhea (Rhea americana)" by sussexbirder is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Protection or utilization: Domestication and breeding under the Wildlife Protection Law (1988)

The Wildlife Protection Law (1988) is formulated for the purpose of protecting and saving the species of wildlife which are rare or near extinction, protecting, developing, and rationally utilizing wildlife resources, and maintaining ecological balances. (Article 1) All activities within the territory of the People's Republic of China concerning the protection, domestication, breeding, development and utilization of species of wildlife must be conducted in conformity with this Law. (Article 2.1) The wildlife protected under this Law refers to the species of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife which are rare or near extinction and the species of terrestrial wildlife which are beneficial or of important economic or scientific value. (Article 2.2) Wildlife resources shall be owned by the state. (Article 3.1)


The state protects the lawful rights and interests of units and individuals engaged in the development or utilization of wildlife resources according to law. (Article 3.2) The state shall pursue a policy of strengthening the protection of wildlife resources, actively domesticating and breeding the species of wildlife, and rationally developing and utilizing wildlife resources, and encourage scientific research on wildlife. (Article 4.1) Units and individuals that have made outstanding achievements in the protection of wildlife resources, in scientific research on wildlife, or in the domestication and breeding of wildlife shall be awarded by the state. (Article 4.2)

The state shall encourage the domestication and breeding of wildlife. (Article 17.1) Anyone who intends to domesticate and breed wildlife under special state protection shall obtain a license. Administrative measures for such licenses shall be formulated by the department of wildlife administration under the State Council. (Article 17.2) Article 16 prohibits the action of hunting, catching or killing of wildlife, but with the exemption when it is “necessary for scientific research, domestication and breeding, exhibition or other special purposes.” Article 22 prohibits the action of sale and purchase of wildlife, but with the exemption when it is “necessary for scientific research, domestication and breeding, exhibition or other special purposes.” (Article 22.1) Units and individuals that domesticate and breed wildlife under special state protection may, by presenting their domestication and breeding licenses, sell wildlife under special state protection or the products thereof, in accordance with the relevant regulations, to purchasing units designated by the government. (Article 22.2) The forgery, sale or resale, or transfer of special hunting and catching licenses, hunting licenses, domestication and breeding licenses, and import and export permits shall be prohibited. (Article 25) If anyone forges, sells or resells, or transfers special hunting and catching license, a hunting license, domestication and breeding license, or an import or export permit, his license or permit shall be revoked and his unlawful income shall be confiscated and he may concurrently be fined by the relevant department of wildlife administration or the administrative authority for industry and commerce. (Article 37.1)

From the language of Wildlife Protection Law (1988), we can find the utilization of wildlife resources and “domestication and breeding of wildlife” were actively encouraged according to the law. Wildlife animals were recognized as “Wildlife resources” owned by the state. Once the action of “domestication and breeding of wildlife” is licensed by the government, the wildlife animals and products will be no longer protected, and will be only recognized as “products with a proper license.”

"Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus)" by Nature.Catcher is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

From domestication and breeding to artificial breeding: The Revision in 2016

The Wildlife Protection Law was revised in 2016. Article 1 was changed. The scope of protection was enlarged from rare and endangered species in 1988 to all wildlife in 2016. The biological diversity was added into Article 1 and developing and rationally utilizing wildlife resources was deleted.

This Law is enacted for the purposes of conserving wild animals, saving rare and endangered species of wild animals, maintaining biological diversity and ecological balance, and advancing ecological civilization. (Article 1, 2016)

This Law is formulated for the purpose of protecting and saving the species of wildlife which are rare or near extinction, protecting, developing, and rationally utilizing wildlife resources, and maintaining ecological balances. (Article 1, 1988)

The term “domestication and breeding of wildlife” was changed into “artificial breeding,” which means the domestication of wildlife is no longer allowed. “The state protects the lawful rights and interests of organizations and individuals engaging in wild animal conservation and associated activities in accordance with the law, such as scientific research and artificial breeding.” (Article 3.2)

The general principle was also changed. The conservation was changed in the first place and the “actively domesticating and breeding and rationally developing and utilizing wildlife resources” was changed into “regulated utilization, and stringent supervision.”

The state applies the principles of “conservation first, regulated utilization, and stringent supervision” to wild animals, encourages scientific research on wild animals, cultivates citizens' awareness of wild animal conservation, and promotes the harmonious development of humans and nature. (Article 4, 2016)

The state shall pursue a policy of strengthening the protection of wildlife resources, actively domesticating and breeding the species of wildlife, and rationally developing and utilizing wildlife resources, and encourage scientific research on wildlife. (Article 4.1, 1988)

The action awarded by the state was changed from “[u]nits and individuals that have made outstanding achievements in the protection of wildlife resources, in scientific research on wildlife, or in the domestication and breeding of wildlife” (Article 4.2, 1988) to “Organizations and individuals that have made remarkable achievements in wild animal conservation or scientific research on wild animals” (Article 9, 2016). The “domestication and breeding of wildlife” was deleted.

Article 25-30 regulated the action of “artificial breeding.” The purpose of “artificial breeding” is limited as “[t]he state supports relevant scientific research institutions in the artificial breeding of national key protected wild animals for the purpose of species protection.” (Article 25) Basic welfare is regulated in Article 26. “Artificial breeding of wild animals under national key protection shall be conducive to species protection and scientific research, and shall not damage wild population resources. According to the habits of wild animals, they shall ensure that they have the necessary space for activities, survival, and reproduction, sanitary and healthy conditions, and have their breeding purposes, types, and health conditions, develop sites, facilities, and technologies that are compatible with the scale of development, and meet relevant technical standards and epidemic prevention requirements, and wild animals must not be abused.” (Article 26.1) The other articles set the requirements for selling animal or animal products from artificial breeding. Article 34, 39, 47 regulates the liability and penalty for illegal action in artificial breeding.

From the law in 2016, we can find that the law is more focused on the conservation side other than the utilization side. Wildlife animals are no longer merely recognized as “sources” or “products” and their basic welfare and anti-cruelty provision is included in the law 2016. Selling animals and products from artificial breeding is more difficult than before and has to be with various licenses and requirements.

"Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis)" by berniedup is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

New challenge after COVID-19

In 2020, after the pandemic of COVID-19, the wildlife trade was totally stopped by the government on January 26th, 2020 by the “Announcement on prohibiting the trade of wild animals.” Then the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress released the Decision to “Comprehensively Prohibit the Illegal Trade of Wild Animals, Break the Bad Habit of Excessive Consumption of Wild Animals, and Effectively Secure the Life and Health of the People” on February 24th, 2020, which totally banned the artificial breeding for the purpose of food consumption. Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and State Forestry and Grassland Administration then published the implementing rules under the Decision.


The list of Terrestrial animals that be raised for food consumption is limited to the list of National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources, 2020. The Catalogue includes 33 species, which are divided into two categories as 17 species of Traditional livestock and poultry (Pigs, common cattle, zebu, buffalo, yak, large-headed cattle, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, camels, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, quail) and 16 species of Special livestock and poultry (Sika deer, red deer, reindeer, alpaca, turkey, guinea fowl, pheasant, partridge, muscovy, mallard, ostrich, emu, mink*, silver fox*, arctic fox*, raccoon dog*. (* These species are not for the purpose of food consumption.) Animals within this list shall be regulated under the Livestock Law.


Then the Wildlife Protection Law was under the revision process in October, and the draft was for Solicitation of Comments from October 21st to November 19th, 2020, and received 4926 comments from 2439 commentators according to the NPC website. The precaution principle for risk management and public safety and biosafety were added to the draft.


Conclusion

Through the changing of the law from 1988 to 2020, we can found the altitude of the law changes with the relation between human and wildlife. In the 1980s, wildlife animals are recognized as a tool or source for economic use or products; in the 2010s, wildlife animals are recognized for their biological value and shall be protected with basic welfare and anti-cruelty; in 2020, the wildlife trade was temporarily banned and the artificial breeding for food consumption is banned, and the public safety and bio-safety were adopted into the new draft. Although now artificial breeding of wildlife for scientific uses and medical uses are still allowed by the law, we are sure that there will be new changes in the new Wildlife Protection Law.

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