Renewed fight between Chinese merchants and animal rights activists

Just when it looked like animal
rights activists and merchants in San Francisco’s Chinatown had reached
an uneasy truce, once again the two groups are squaring off over the sale
of live animals in Chinatown’s markets.

For a brief recap, the animal
activists charged live animals being offered for sale in the markets were
being treated cruelly. The merchants argued the activists were interfering
with their traditional cultural practices. The activists sued, but the
whole issue appeared to be resolved when the merchants agreed to abide
by a voluntary code of conduct and the activists agreed, in return, not
to appeal a judge’s ruling against the activists.

The whole agreement broke
down, however, over hard-shell turtles. The merchants currently remove
the turtle’s shell and then cut off the animal’s head, which the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals considers cruel. Instead,
it wants the merchants to cut off the turtle’s head first and then remove
the shell. The merchants argue that because turtles instinctively withdraw
their heads into their shells, trying to cut the head off before removing
the shell is too dangerous.

The markets are very crowded,
and “when you try to chop off (the head)while your finger is right
next to the butcher knife, you have to beware of the workers walking back
and forth behind you,” said Michael Lau who works in the market.
“Sooner or later you’ll chop off something besides the head.”

The ASPCA accuses the merchants
of failing to meet an October deadline for adopting humane practices on
the storage and slaughter of frogs and soft-shell turtles. The merchants,
in response, say the ASPCA never really gave them a fair shot at resolving
the implementation problems.

The ASPCA is now apparently
going to join animal rights groups appealing to the California Fish and
Game Commission seeking legislation to regulate the markets’ treatment
of live animals.

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