China will jail people who eat rare animals for 10 years or more under a new interpretation of the criminal law, state media reported, as the government seeks to close a legal loophole and better protect the natural environment.
China lists 420 species as rare or endangered, including the panda, golden monkeys, Asian black bears and pangolins, some or all of which are threatened by illegal hunting, environmental destruction and the consumption of animal parts, including for supposedly medicinal reasons.
Consumption of rare animals has risen as the country has become richer, with some people believing spending thousands of yuan on eating them gives a certain social cache.
"Eating rare wild animals is not only bad social conduct but also a main reason why illegal hunting has not been stopped despite repeated crackdowns," Lang Sheng, deputy head of parliament's Legislative Affairs Commission said, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Thursday.
The new interpretation "clears up ambiguities about buyers of prey of illegal hunting", the report added.
Knowingly buying any wild animals killed by illegal hunting will now be considered a crime, with a maximum penalty of three years in jail, Xinhua said.
"In fact, buyers are a major motivator of large-scale illegal hunting," Lang said.