Chinese state media defended proposed rules on dog ownership in a column on Sunday, claiming the country’s “immense population” means dogs pose a risk to public health.
In a piece in the state propaganda outlet Global Times, author Lin Lan argues “having a pet dog is a complex issue” in China, mainly in response to a New York Times report last week detailing how Chinese authorities have introduced new rules around dog walking while generally showing little respect for animal rights.
“There is nothing wrong with Western media attaching importance to animal rights. But these same media shouldn’t neglect China’s national conditions,” it reads. “According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, China was third in the world for dog ownership by the end of 2016, with a total of 27.4 million pet dogs, a figure which doesn’t include unregistered or stray dogs. China has the second highest number of reported rabies cases in the world.”
In 2014, authorities in Yunnan province killed over 5,000 dogs to combat a rabies outbreak that caused five deaths. The move was also an attempt to encourage dog owners to get their pets vaccinated, although animal rights campaigners still widely denounced the killing spree.
“China is the world’s most populous country, with some Chinese cities among the most densely populated worldwide,” the Global Times continues. “If Chinese families all raise dogs, simply cleaning up all the dog poop would be a heavy social burden, not to mention the risk of infectious disease or rabies. Raising dogs is a big issue that influences cities’ environments and millions of residents’ health.”
The article goes on to claim that aside from dog ownership, many international practices are “hard to carry out” because of the country’s vast population, which is just under 1.4 billion people.
“Why are many international practices hard to carry out in China? It’s all because of China’s immense population,” it concludes “This is our basic national condition. Regulating dog ownership in cities shows the difficulty in China’s city management and in the whole country’s governance. No other country faces such great challenge in governance as China does.”
One of the most controversial events highlighting China’s disregard for animal rights is the annual Yulin dog meat festival, where an estimated 15,000-20,000 dogs are consumed. The barbaric event has attracted worldwide condemnation and many Hollywood celebrities have pleaded with Chinese authorities to outlaw consumption of dog meat.
Last year, the Chinese government pledged to ban the festival, although animal rights activists remain skeptical that it will lead to any meaningful change after this year’s event went ahead as planned.