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China Approves Use of Rhino, Tiger Parts For Medical Treatment And Research (#GotBitcoin?)

Change eases 25-year ban and draws criticism from activists concerned to protect endangered species. China Approves Use of Rhino, Tiger Parts For Medical Treatment And Research

China has relaxed a 25-year ban on the sale and use of rhinoceros and tiger parts amid efforts to bolster the traditional Chinese medicine industry, angering activists who say it undercuts efforts to protect endangered animals.

A government directive published Monday said rhino horns and tiger bones could now be used for “medical research or in healing” by certified hospitals and doctors, as long as the parts were sourced from animals raised in captivity, apart from those in zoos. Other exceptions to the ban included scientific research and education, as well as cultural exchanges.

The decision dovetails with President Xi Jinping’s campaign to promote the multibillion-dollar traditional Chinese medicine sector, which evolved over millennia and includes the use of herbal medicine and acupuncture. The industry has gained size and clout over recent years as Mr. Xi has used it as a vehicle for expanding China’s global influence.

Conservationists said the decision could encourage poaching and facilitate black-market trade in rhino and tiger parts that many Chinese wrongly believe to have medicinal value. China is the world’s largest market for illegal rhino horn, according to Elephant Action League, a Los Angeles-based conversation nonprofit. Wildlife experts estimate that there are about 30,000 rhinos and 3,900 tigers left in the wild globally.

“It sets up what is essentially a laundering scheme for illegal tiger bone and rhino horn to enter the marketplace and further perpetuate the demand for these animal parts,” Iris Ho, a wildlife specialist at Washington, D.C, nonprofit Humane Society International, said in a statement.

Beijing banned the trade and medical use of rhino horn and tiger bone in 1993, when it also excised references to them from official catalogues of Chinese medical ingredients.

Even so, some practitioners still use rhino horn to treat ailments including fever, rheumatism and gout, while applying tiger-bone products to relieve joint pains and boost male virility. Many scientific studies have found no medicinal properties in either.

The State Council didn’t give reasons for easing the ban. Its publicity office referred queries to the Chinese-medicine regulator, which didn’t immediately respond.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said the new directive updates the 1993 regulations that had become “incompatible” with other existing laws. China remains committed to protecting endangered animals and has set “strict supervisory mechanisms” to improve enforcement, Mr. Lu told reporters during a regular briefing on Tuesday.

The traditional Chinese medicine industry earns more than $120 billion annually and employs more than 660,000 medical practitioners, according to government data.

Mr. Xi has touted Chinese medicine as a scientific and cultural export, particularly to developing countries in Asia and Africa. In 2017, he gave the World Health Organization a statue depicting acupuncture points on the human body, as part of efforts to promote global acceptance of Chinese medical techniques.

Just last week, Mr. Xi visited a Chinese-medicine technological park in southern Guangdong province, where he called the field a “treasure of the Chinese civilization” and urged more efforts to take the industry global.

Some leading Chinese-medicine practitioners, including members of the national legislature, have lobbied for looser restrictions on the medicinal use of parts from endangered species.

“Under conditions that don’t affect the reproduction and survival of these animals, we should reasonably utilize them and conduct scientific research,” Zhang Boli, a legislator and president of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, said in 2015 remarks published by state media.

He said parts could be sustainably harvested for medicinal use by breeding rhinos and using bones from tigers that die from natural causes. China had about 4,000 tigers bred in captivity, according to a 2016 state-media report.

Last year, the government’s Chinese-medicine regulator said it had commissioned an industry group to study ways to “protect and utilize endangered animals for medicinal use,” including rhinos. Its aim was to “satisfy the public’s basic pharmaceutical needs, premised on sustainable development of endangered medicinal resources,” the regulator said.

It wasn’t clear if those studies led to the State Council’s directive, which was issued on Oct. 6 but released publicly only three weeks later. State media reports on the directive highlighted government assurances that the trade in rhino and tiger parts would be strictly managed to ensure the protection of such animals.

Conservationists say China’s decision is bewildering given its recent record in supporting wildlife protection, which had contributed to declining rhino-horn prices in recent years. Two years ago, the Chinese government said it would ban all domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017, a move widely applauded as a significant step in reducing elephant poaching.

Updated 11-12-2018

China Suspends Its Relaxation of Wildlife-Trade Ban

Move allowed limited use of rhino and tiger parts for medical and scientific purposes.

China suspended its relaxation of a 25-year ban on the sale and use of rhinoceros and tiger parts, pulling back from a recent decision that environmentalists criticized as undercutting efforts to protect endangered animals.

Two weeks after the government said it would allow limited use of rhino and tiger parts for medical and scientific purposes, a senior Chinese official said Monday that “strict bans” on their usage remain in force. The official, in remarks carried in English by China’s official news agency, said Beijing is postponing the release of guidelines to implement the October directive.

Ding Xuedong, a senior official in the State Council, China’s cabinet, didn’t explain the delay or say how long it might last.

His comments signal a climbdown for China after widespread criticism from the United Nations and environmental groups, which fear that a relaxation of the ban would be harmful to rhinoceros and tiger populations in the wild.

Although Beijing’s directive permitted the use of parts taken only from animals raised in captivity other than zoos, the U.N. Environment Program and other groups warned that the move would encourage poaching and facilitate black-market trade in rhino and tiger parts that many Chinese wrongly believe to have medicinal value.

After the apparent reversal, wildlife activists urged Beijing to follow up by fully restoring its 1993 ban on rhino and tiger trade. “Allowing trade from even captive animals could have had devastating impacts on wild rhino and tiger populations,” said Margaret Kinnaird, a senior conservationist at the World Wildlife Fund, who described China’s latest announcement as “a positive response to international reaction.”

Mr. Ding, in comments carried by the Xinhua News Agency, said Beijing “has not changed its stance on wildlife protection” and “will soon continue to organize special crackdown campaigns” against illegal trade of rhino and tiger parts.

China is the world’s largest market for illegal rhino horn, according to Elephant Action League, a Los Angeles-based conservation nonprofit. Wildlife experts estimate that there are about 30,000 rhinos and 3,900 tigers left in the wild globally.

Environmental groups said China’s relaxation of the ban set back its efforts of recent years to use its backing for environmental causes—such as banning the domestic ivory trade and combating climate change—to show it is shouldering greater global responsibility.

Relaxation of the ban would have helped President Xi Jinping’s campaign to promote the multibillion-dollar traditional Chinese medicine industry, which includes the use of herbal medicine and acupuncture. The sector earns more than $120 billion annually and employs more than 660,000 medical practitioners, according to government data.

Some Chinese-medicine practitioners lobbied the government to relax the ban. Rhino horn is traditionally used to treat ailments including fever, rheumatism and gout, and tiger-bone products have been used for relieving joint pains and boosting male virility. Many scientific studies have found no medicinal properties in either, and some among the traditional medicine community doubt their effectiveness as well.

Under the October directive, China would have permitted certified hospitals and doctors to use rhino horns and tiger bones for “medical research or in healing,” as long as the parts were sourced from animals raised in captivity, apart from those in zoos. Other permissible uses would have included scientific research, education and cultural exchanges.

Justifying the directive last month, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was meant to update the 1993 regulations that had become “incompatible” with other existing laws.

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