Taiwan has become the first Asian country to ban the sale and consumption of cat and dog meat.
The country has also doubled the penalty for animal cruelty to two years in prison and a fine of £52,000. The fine for eating cat or dog meat is £6,500 and people found guilty of the crime could also find themselves publicly named and shamed.
Drivers and motorcyclists who pull animals along on a leash also face a fine of up to £400, according to the amendments passed on Tuesday.
While consumption of dogs and cats was never widespread in Taiwan, the amendments point to increasing concern for the treatment of animals on the island, where many residents lavish money and attention on their pets amid a plunging birthrate.
Two decades after Taiwan began grappling with the abandonment of pets and other problems, the island has some of the most comprehensive protections on the books anywhere in Asia.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s team portrayed her as an animal lover during her election campaign, focusing on her two cats. She later adopted three retired guide dogs.
An estimated 30 million dogs a year are killed across Asia for their meat, some 10-20m in China alone. Thousands die at the Yulin Dog meat Festival, which sees mass dog slaughter and consumption annually.
Wendy Higgins of the Humane Society International said: “Taiwan’s progressive ban is part of a growing trend across Asia to end the brutal dog meat trade, and reflects the fact that a huge number of people in Asian countries do not in fact eat dog and cat and are appalled by the cruel and often crime-fuelled trade.
“Taiwan also sends a strong signal to countries such as China and South Korea where the dog meat trade remains and millions of dogs are killed by beating, hanging or electrocution for eating. It’s time for change, and bans like the one in Taiwan utterly dispel the myth that this is promoted by Western sentimentality. The animal protection movement is growing rapidly across Asia and the calls for an end to dog meat cruelty are getting louder and louder.”