China Environmental Law

A discussion of China’s environmental and energy laws, regulations, and policies

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China’s Tiger Farms

June 30th, 2009 · 1 Comment

On the climate front, be sure to read Li Gao’s critique of ACES and Paul Krugman’s defense of “border adjustments” to curb greenhouse gas emissions (I like to think of it as “cap & trade locally, tax globally”).  Links to both can be found in the Twitter feed on the left.

Today, however, I want to return to one of my favorite themes, Tiger Wine.  The BBC News’ The Green Room is running an opinion piece by Debbie Banks entitled “Earning their stripes: A thriving black market for tigers is not helped by farming the animals.”

The people who work for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which is committed, among other things to “investigating and exposing the illegal trade in tigers and other Asian big cats,” most be among the bravest of the environmental community.  When you read their findings and note the “increasing role of organised criminal networks” in the trade, you realize that EIA staff don’t have safe, cushy desk jobs like we here at CELB.

As we have previously noted “[i]nternational trade in tiger body parts and derivatives is banned under UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).”  In June 2007 the Conference of Parties to CITES voted “to phase out commercial tiger farms.”

Wouldn’t allowing “tiger products” from tiger farms, where tigers are bred in captivity, alleviate pressure on tigers in the wild? No, just the opposite would happen.

Ms Banks [head of the UKEIA's tiger campaign] said this would be “disastrous” for endangered wild tigers. “Lifting the ban would increase demand and lead to a surge in poaching of India’s already embattled wild tiger populations,” she said.

“It would be all too easy to launder their skins, bones and parts among those from legalised tiger farms. This would be effectively declare an open season on wild tigers.”

In addition to international agreements (to which China is a signatory), Chinese law prohibits the domestic trade (including parts from farm-raised tigers).  As with many aspects of Chinese environmental law, enforcement is problematic.

EIA notes

tiger bone wine being marketed as a general tonic and packaged as the gift that wins promotions and seals deals [in China]. Call it a conflict of interest, but there has been no meaningful enforcement action by the relevant authorities to stop this trade.

As a result, tiger farming is still a big business in China.

There are tiger farms in Thailand but by far the biggest ones are in China, where there are reportedly around 5,000 animals in captivity.

Despite a 1993 ban prohibiting the sale and use of tigers in China, business interests have continued to breed them, speculating that the ban would one day be lifted and that they would be sitting on a valuable stockpile of body parts.

So how is China doing on fulfilling its international commitment to phase out these farms?

China’s response to a notification from Cites seeking information on what steps they have taken to fulfill the agreed decision was met with a curt and derisive response that told us nothing.

I can only imagine.

This issue will be discussed during the CITES meeting in Geneva next week.  If we hear anything more, we’ll let you know.  In the meantime, go get ‘em EIA!

Tags: endangered species

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Greg // Jun 30, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I would imagine that this problem, like the abuse of chic drugs in the US (coke, x and expensive boutique drugs among the well off and well connected), focuses on solving the problem by going after the product producers/harvesters and sellers rather than the buyers. Crush demand you crush the business. Go after the suppliers and leave demand untouched and you are chasing an illusion.

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