|Houston, Texas, USA, June 5, 2014|
Legal experts, scholars from the United States and China joined a one-day forum on animal protection legislation at the University of Houston-Downtown (UH-D). The event, “1st US-China Animal Law Forum”, sponsored by UH-D, Northwest China University of Politics and Law, and South Texas College of Law, was the first of its kind devoted to reviewing the existing laws for animal protection in both countries and to identifying areas that both countries can improve in the years to come.
“Animal cruelty is not a problem unique to any country,” Dr. Peter Li said. “It is a global challenge,” he continued. Since the US and China occupy influential positions in the world, progress in animal protection in both countries has significance that transcends the American and Chinese boundaries. “This was why we pulled together here American and Chinese legal experts, law enforcement officials and activists,” Sun Jiang, a visiting scholar at University of Houston from Northwest China University of Law and Politics.
Both the US and China face similar challenges in legislating animal protection. Chris Green, a lawyer from San Francisco, pointed out in his presentation that animal protection law-making in the US has not been linear. The progress made so far has been part of humans’ efforts to adapt to the changes in their lives. “Urbanization and increased mobility have both contributed to the importance of companion animals to their owners who need to cope with the loss of their traditional support system,” he said. “The single-child generation in China is already seeking emotional support from companion animals and the this phenomenon will surely encourage people to pay attention to the welfare of other animals,” he continued.
Echoing Green’s observation, Professor Sun Jiang saw hope in China’s progress in animal protection law-making in the years to come. As a member of the drafting committee of China’s scholarly proposal on animal protection law, Sun saw the legislative experiences in Hong Kong and Taiwan, international exchanges on animal protection, increasing activism of the animal protection community, and Chinese government’s own initiatives were factors that would contribute to positive policy-change.
Other scholars addressed specific legal issues that interested the attendees. Master Chang Hui, founder of the Hebei Buddhist Charity Foundation, called on the Chinese authorities to intervene in Yulin’s dog meat festival in the interest of public health, food safety and China’s moral progress. Fran Ortiz, a law professor from South Texas College of Law, reminded the audience that the US has a lot to improve in protecting animals used in experimentation. She pointed out that animal tests in the US succumbs some 25 million animals to brutal and unnecessary tests. It is time that the US and the rest of the world consider moving to non-animal alternative tests. Joyce Tischler, Sun Yuhong, Chen Xiaojing, Jessica Milligan, Channin Buckner Other scholars also made strong cases against concentrated animal feeding operations (Joyce Tischler); for enhancing owner responsibility as a way of animal protection (Sun Yuhong); for protection-oriented wildlife legislation (Chen Xiaojing); for using special prosecutors to get animal abusers prosecuted (Jessica Milligan).
The forum was part of the exchange programs between UH-D and Northwest University of Law and Politics in China. At the end of the forum, representatives from the Chinese university signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Provost of UH-D on building a collaborative relationship for faculty and students between the two universities.