China’s illegal online live animal trade should be stopped
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.