China is urged to close tiger “farms”

British members of parliament are urging the Chinese government to close the country's controversial tiger "farms". About 5,000 tigers -- more than exist in the wild -- are in captive enclosures in China, and Chinese businesses are campaigning hard for the opening up of domestic trade in tiger body parts.

"The opening up of trade would be disastrous for a species already facing annihilation," said former environment minister Elliot Morley. "The international community has already called upon China in the strongest terms to shut down their tiger farms forthwith. What we need now is for the United Kingdom and the European Union to take this issue up to the highest level."

Environmental groups are concerned that an end to the 15-year ban on tiger body parts would lead to a surge in poaching of a species already on the brink of extinction.

"We give strong support to the protection of tigers, by not importing, not selling and not utilising any tiger products," said Bo-Ying Ma of the Federation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, who will speak at a "call to action" hosted by Morley in London on Thursday. "We oppose any trading to sell any tiger parts using the excuse of Chinese medicine. Products of tiger parts are not indispensable for Chinese medicine."

China, Ma noted, introduced laws in the 1980s to protect endangered species.

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