Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



In the past few years, a new debate has erupted in mainland China. This debate focuses on animal rights, animal welfare and animal treatment in general. In the not too distant past, such subjects were conveniently rejected as unworthy of serious academic attention. China’s rapid economic changes, increasing societal activism on environmental issues, continuous influx of foreign ideas and a rising societal awareness of the rights for the disadvantaged, including the nonhuman animals, are impacting the agendas of public discussions. Directly triggering this public debate were several highly publicized animal cruelty incidents involving, for example, five bears at Beijing Zoo attacked with concentrated acid by a college student and the tragic death of a circus tiger out of sheer exhaustion. Indirectly fuelling this debate is the prevalence of cruel practices in China’s farming industries, slaughtering operations, entertainment parks and other animal-holding institutions.

This chapter introduces the ongoing debate and the positions of the participants. By reviewing their respective arguments, we attempt to present the two opposing camps: the proponents of animal policy change and their opponents who oppose such a change. By examining their different perspectives, the article intends to highlight the challenges and opportunities for policy change. Importantly, we shall explore the political and social impacts of the evolving debate to shed light on the role of China’s animal advocacy groups in the country’s political and social evolution in the years to come.