China’s il­le­gal on­line live an­i­mal trade should be stopped

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By David Lee

Buy a ven­omous snake on­line and then have the live an­i­mal de­liv­ered in a pack­age to your door us­ing a courier ser­vice? In­stead of some silly joke, this is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing in China!

A 21-year-old woman in Weinan, North­west China’s Shaanxi Province, did the un­be­liev­able, ac­cord­ing to Huashang Daily. Ear­lier this month, the woman bought a coral snake, known as one of the most lethal ven­omous snake species, via an on­line sec­ond­hand goods trad­ing plat­form.

The seller, based in South China’s Guang­dong Province, some 1,600 kilo­me­ters away, placed the live an­i­mal in­side a sealed box and had the box de­liv­ered to her; the courier would later deny that it had any knowl­edge of the con­tents of the box.

The odyssey of the coral snake turned into a to­tal tragedy. The woman was – un­sur­pris­ingly – bit­ten by the snake. For some weird rea­son, she didn’t ask for im­me­di­ate help but only ap­plied a ban­dage to her wound. Later, af­ter suf­fer­ing ter­ri­bly from the snake venom, she called her mother for help, who im­me­di­ately took her daugh­ter to the hospi­tal. But it was too late. The woman died around a week later de­spite ur­gent res­cue work. Like the an­cient adage about the young girl and the snake says, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.” Live an­i­mal trad­ing is ram­pant in Chi­nese cy­berspace. An­i­mal rights ad­vo­cates of­ten protest against in­hu­mane treat­ment of live an­i­mals be­ing shipped in sealed pack­ages. Pet an­i­mals such as tur­tles and guinea pigs suf­fer tremen­dously dur­ing the ship­ment process, and many die. Nei­ther the un­scrupu­lous sell­ers nor the prospec­tive pet own­ers in­volved in this trade and ship­ment process show any re­spect for an­i­mals. Of course, il­le­gal on­line trad­ing also poses a real threat to many en­dan­gered species. The tragic case of the young woman, with all its bit­ter sar­casm, yet again re­veals the dan­gers and threats posed by China’s on­line live an­i­mal trade. Apart from coral snakes, other dan­ger­ous live an­i­mals such as scor­pi­ons have been re­ported to be shipped via reg­u­lar courier ser­vices. To be sure, laws and poli­cies against this il­le­gal trade are in place. Reg­u­la­tions pub­lished by the na­tional postal au­thor­i­ties pro­hibit ship­ping any live an­i­mals. The real prob­lem lies with en­force­ment.

There has been news re­port­ing that live ven­omous snakes are still be­ing sold on­line and that reg­u­lar ship­ping ser­vices are still an op­tion. This means bad things will con­tinue to hap­pen de­spite the Shaanxi tragedy. How many more deaths must take place be­fore this will end?

Na­tional postal au­thor­i­ties have stressed that courier ser­vice com­pa­nies must ex­am­ine the con­tents of any pack­ages. But, wide non­com­pli­ance still ex­ists in the in­dus­try. Fail­ure to ver­ify the con­tent of a pack­age does not only af­fect the wel­fare of live an­i­mals, but it also cre­ates se­ri­ous se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Last but not least, e-com­merce plat­forms can and must do more in terms of house­keep­ing. Some­times self-reg­u­la­tion is more ef­fec­tive than en­force­ment. If the plat­forms can im­ple­ment stricter scru­tiny and ban non­com­pli­ant re­tail­ers based on a ro­bust, ver­i­fi­able com­plaint sys­tem, a lot of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties will be pre­vented.

In ad­di­tion, e-com­merce plat­forms can play an im­por­tant role in ed­u­cat­ing re­tail­ers and po­ten­tial buy­ers alike about live an­i­mal trade com­pli­ance. Let’s hope the ram­pant live an­i­mal trade ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in China will soon be put un­der ef­fec­tive con­trol be­fore any more fa­tal­i­ties oc­cur.

The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

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