The tiger and rhino, two of the majestic animals admired by many and long-hunted and viciously killed by poachers salivating about the riches they may obtain from their coveted tusks, horns and bones. For decades these stunning, yet endangered, animals have been protected by government legislations and the active work of animal conservation groups like the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation). Nearing extinction, in 1993 China introduced the ban as part of a global push to protect fast-endangering species. Things are improving but nowhere near enough to classify them as thriving species. They are still endangered. So what motives lie behind lifting the ban?
An estimated 3,890 tigers remain alive in the wild, whilst the population of wild rhinos is less than 30,000.
According to the statement by China, products using tiger bone and rhino horn will only be used in ‘special circumstances’ and they will ‘control’ the trade so that the products can only be used from farmed animals for use in ‘medical research and healing.’ Do they honestly believe it will be that easy?
1. Once you’ve opened the flood gates to allow use of legally obtained otherwise illegal products, those products will always find themselves on the market illegally, obtained on the black market and covered up by the legal versions and loopholes. That’s corruption and sadly it is life in the (under)world. Those products will find themselves out there and animals will die brutally and unjustly at the hands of poachers and others. The Chinese government has done a great job of including themselves in the initiative to protect endangered tigers and rhinos. What changed?
‘Under the special circumstances, regulation on the sales and use of these products will be strengthened, and any related actions will be authorized, and the trade volume will be strictly controlled’ says China. WWF Wildlife Practice Leader Margaret Kinnaird disagrees. She says ‘It is deeply concerning that China has reversed its 25 year old tiger bone and rhino horn trade which has been so critical in conserving these iconic species. This should be expanded to cover trade in all tiger parts and products. The resumption of a legal market for these products is an enormous setback to efforts to protect tigers and rhinos in the world.’ The Humane Society International agrees, strongly criticizing China, they note that ‘the trade it engenders will inevitably put pressure on animals in the wild.' China on the other hand has ‘urged governments at all levels to improve publicity activities for protecting rhinos and tigers to help the public actively boycott any illegal purchases’, averting the blame and responsibility in advance.
2. The number of ill people hasn’t changed and if anything medicine has progressed. Alternative ethical cures are available and there is no scientific evidence that these bones and horns will cure anybody or any medical illnesses. If anything, the farmed versions may not have the same impact as their natural free counterparts.
3. What medical research and healing classifies as ‘special circumstances’? They still refuse to specify. Traditionally they have been used to aid insomnia and gout. Interestingly, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency, China has long allowed tiger farms to harvest the bones of dead animals and tacitly allows their sale for alleged medicinal purposes. That bodes the question: why now do they need live ones, and why do they need greater numbers?
4. ‘Farming’ animals – a word that makes the spine shiver and throat revolt. This is not farming as we know it – the organic, natural, free-roaming animals who live a good life and are reared well, then killed and the whole body utilized for cooking or otherwise – what they are referring to is force farming. It is not good for the animals, they are not happy or loved, and do not have space. They are grown specifically for specific purposes, in this case their bone and horn, then disposed of. That’s not fair, it’s not ethical and the animals have rights too so it needs to be stopped.
As a global community, we’re trying to stop fish from being force farmed; people producing battery hens, cows and the like in cramped conditions; animal testing on beauty and domestic products, God we’re even trying to protect young academy and more junior footballers from treated that way by clubs, so why on earth are we allowing China to do it to tigers and lions?
Final thought: China has a reputation for eating shark fins, … all the things they say they don’t do, but do continue to do underground. Why would rhinos and tiger protection, ‘regulation’ and legal ‘authorization’ be any different?