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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - A proposal to jail people who eat dog meat for up 15 days has caused controversy in China, where dog hot pot is traditionally popular.
The first draft of a law against animal abuse, aiming to protect animals from being hurt or killed in a cruel manner, has been completed by a group of experts and will be raised for legislation this April, local media reported.
In particular, the draft suggested people caught eating dog or cat meat be jailed for up to 15 days and fined 5,000 yuan ($732.5), while businesses would be fined from 100,000 to 500,000 yuan, according to the Chongqing Evening News.
Debate immediately swirled in Chinese media and Internet forums.
"Eating cats and dogs is a shameless barbarian thing. Anyone with humanity would not kill these loyal friends of ours," a user named "Yuxiang999" posted on Xinhuanet.com.
Pet lovers' associations have sprung up in Chinese cities, with one liberation group last year ramming a truck full of caged cats to rescue them from being shipped to southern restaurants.
While many Chinese enjoy rich dog meat, especially during cold winters, some object to the practice in some regions of beating dogs to death to release the blood into the meat.
The China National Native Produce & Animal By-Products Import and Export Corporation backed the initiative, which it believes will improve overseas perceptions of Chinese exports.
Others insisted a ban on dog and cat meat was unrealistic.
"Banning such custom by law is inappropriate and unable to work," the Yangtze Evening News quoted Xu Huiqiang, chief of wild animal protection in Jiangsu province, where a dog meat recipe has been listed as a piece of cultural heritage.
An official of Leping, a city that has a traditional catering industry based on dog meat, told the Jiangxi News that the local economy and people's life would be terribly hurt by such a law.
"Cooking them alive must be punished but which meat to eat should be people's own choice," said a commentary on Xinhua Daily in Nanjing. "Some people in China still can't afford meat. We should not blindly copy Western values."
Reporting by Liu Zhen and Lucy Hornby; Editing by Alex Richardson