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(CN) Tiger Abuse

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  • John Wedderburn
    Tiger Abuse in China Sparks Calls for Animal Rights By Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2010 Tigers jump for a chicken tossed by a feeder on May
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2010
      Tiger Abuse in China Sparks Calls for Animal Rights
      By Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2010

      Tigers jump for a chicken tossed by a feeder on May 7, 2009, at a branch of the Harbin Siberian Tigers Breeding Center in northeast China's Heilongjiang province

      It is an irony not lost on the Chinese public that the Year of the Tiger has
      not been good for the big cats. On Tuesday, state media reported that dozens
      of tigers and other endangered animals had died of malnutrition over the
      past two years at the Northern Forest Zoo in the Chinese city of Harbin.
      Workers, who later leaked the story to the media, buried their bodies in a
      3-meter pit to hide the animals from authorities.

      The report follows the news in March that 11 rare Siberian tigers had
      starved to death within a few months at the Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo
      in northeast China. The cases have shed light on the murky world of China's
      12 tiger farms, which were initially set up by the state in the 1980s to
      preserve the numbers of animals in existence. They have also underscored
      changing attitudes toward animal rights in a country where exotic animals
      have often been treasured less for their rarity and more for their medicinal
      or culinary benefits. (See the top 10 animal stories of 2009.)

      Traditional Chinese medical theories have long extolled the health benefits
      of tonics and poultices made from rare animal parts, including everything
      from bear bile to deer antlers. Among enthusiasts for this esoteric branch
      of traditional medicine, few animals are more treasured for their nutritive
      qualities than the tiger. Tiger bone wine - a rice alcohol brewed in a vat
      with the carcass of one of the cats - is prized as a tonic for fatigue and
      sexual potency, for example. In an effort to clamp down on the lucrative
      poaching industry that sprung up around the big cats, sales of tiger parts
      were banned in 1993.

      But that edict closed off the primary revenue stream for the dozen tiger
      farms nationwide. The Guilin Xiongsen Tigers and Bears Mountain Village in
      southern Yunnan province had 400 tigers when the sales ban was enacted. In
      hopes the ban would be temporary, the farm continued breeding and now has
      1,500 tigers. Each tiger costs roughly $9 per day to feed, which equates to
      nearly $5 million a year in costs for the park. The revenue the village
      receives from visitors is far less than that. Some facilities have turned to
      unusual schemes to generate extra income. At the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park,
      visitors can pay about $6 to buy a live chicken tied to a stick, which they
      then dangle over the side of a tiger pen, watching as the animals tear it to
      pieces. A menu of sorts is available for tourists to choose from: about $120
      gets you a live cow, which is then released into the pen with the tigers,
      with predictable consequences. (See TIME's photo-essay "Afghan Tragedy:
      Death of a Snow Leopard.")

      At the Shenyang and Harbin parks, however, budgets were apparently strained
      to such an extent that animals simply weren't fed for weeks at a time. The
      dire financial straits and gross neglect at the Shenyang site came to light
      only when disgruntled workers - who hadn't been paid for months - contacted
      the media.

      The Chinese government has come under increasing pressure from owners of
      tiger farms to relax the ban on trading tiger parts. So far the government
      has resisted those efforts, a move that seems to be in keeping with shifting
      public sentiment. The back-to-back tiger tragedies have been followed
      closely in China, spurring calls for greater legal protections for animals.
      Meanwhile, lawmakers have been drafting the country's first regulations on
      animal abuse. The government is considering, among other things, a ban on
      the consumption of dog and cat meat, a culinary specialty in southern China.
      Under the proposed law, companies or restaurants that sell cat or dog meat
      could face fines of up to $73,000. (See 10 species near extinction.)

      "Harming animals hurts the spirit of the people, especially the younger
      generation," says Chang Jiwen, a professor of law at the Chinese Academy of
      the Social Sciences and one of the key drivers of the legislation. "A ban on
      abusing animals generally would illustrate that China has reached a new
      level of civilization."

      Read more:
      http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1976699,00.html#ixzz0jtuP9art
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