By Mimi Lau
Campaigners welcome report of stronger wildlife legislation and hope it will be widened to stop cruelty to pets and farm animals
The law is to be toughened to give more protection to wild animals on the mainland, according to a news website report.
A wildlife protection law introduced in 1988 is to be amended so that China recognises the concept of "animal welfare" for the first time, an expert working on the panel revising the legislation told the Shanghai-based news website Thepaper.cn.
Professor Chang Jiwen, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Law, was quoted as saying that the tougher laws would help protect many species around the country.
"Animal welfare within wildlife protection law is a major milestone in the history of global wild animal protection as the vast land of China hosts one of the widest ranges of wildlife in the world," Chang said.
Some endangered species are protected under mainland law, but the report said there were no specific offences to punish people who harmed or were cruel to wildlife.
Chang said the authorities also planned to revise regulations controlling animal habitats, but did not elaborate.
International animal welfare charities have long criticised the authorities on the mainland for not doing enough to protect wildlife and domestic animals from cruelty and abuse.
Their complaints include the demand in China for often endangered animals as food or as ingredients in medicines.
Isobel Zhang, China manager for the British-based animals charity ACTAsia, said the step to include the general concept of "animal welfare" in legislation was a huge step forward, but pets and farm animals should also be included to give them greater protection.
"It means the law is beginning to aim at animal protection, but the law should clearly state its scope," she said.
"[It\ should also discuss extending the concept to non-wildlife.
The mainland lacked legislation to punish people who were cruel to animals or who exposed them to unnecessary suffering or harm, Zhang said.
"While the exact benefits to animal welfare are yet to be seen, this could at least help in generally advocating for animal protection," she said.
The report comes after two men were jailed on Monday for killing a donkey from an endangered species in Tibet .
The two men chased and hit the kiang in their car. They then killed it with a knife and disemboweled it.
The pair were jailed for 3.5 years and one year.
They were also fined 80,000 yuan (HK$101,000) and 20,000 yuan.
They took photographs of themselves with the dead animal and posted them online, sparking public outrage.