Millions of fish live trapped in China’s
Just off the coast, beneath a network of
floating wooden walkways that sprawl
over the bay, are miles and miles of nets.
They create a system of aquatic cages
where fish are bred, spend their lives
confined, and ultimately die.
More than 60 percent of the world's farmed fish come from China.
Aquaculture systems like those that fill
Luoyuan Bay extend along most of the
country’s eastern shoreline. Fish are also
raised in crowded tanks and enclosures in
lakes, ponds, and streams.
The factory-scale fishing in Luoyuan Bay
is just one story among thousands in
China, where life has greatly worsened for
animals as the country’s population and
economic power has grown.
A LOOK BACK 回顾
Not long ago, food was harder to come
by in China. Older generations can still
recall widespread famine that took the
lives of tens of millions of people.
For much of the 20th century, all farmland
was owned by the state. In 1981, the
rights to cultivate the land, but not of
ownership, were distributed back to
China has been run by the Communist
Party of China since 1949. Relationships
hold the key to pushing changes through
institutions; while citizens elect local
leaders, the party determines higher
Given this history, animal protection
strategies will look different in China.
Common forms of activism are banned.
Crowds cannot gather, and even
planning a protest is against the law.
The government censors the internet,
including social media. Activists are
subject to detention or punishment
without due process.
The environment is different, but the
degree of animal suffering is the same.
As China’s middle class has grown, so
has its appetite for meat. Decades ago
the Chinese diet was 97 percent plant-based. The average person in China eats
half as much meat as an American, and
consumption is increasing.
As appetites have changed, so too has
the farming industry. Small family farms
are being replaced with giant facilities on
the scale of U.S. factory farms.
China may already have up to 64,000
factory farms, more than three times as
many as exist in the U.S.––a shift that has
been backed by the Chinese government.
And today half of all farmed animals in
the world are raised and killed in China.
In the east China province of Anhui, one
of the country’s largest dairy factory farms
confines about 40,000 cows. Calves live in
row after row of tiny hutches, while cows
stand on concrete floors and are treated
like milking machines.
These facilities promise jobs and a
secure income to villagers, but the reality
doesn’t match up. Jobs are fewer than
advertised, and surrounding villages
experience negative environmental and
health effects—water contamination, air
pollution, and overwhelming odors.
Seven hundred million pigs are raised and
slaughtered in China each year, making
the country the world’s largest pork
producer. At a facility on Yaji Mountain,
pigs are kept in a seven-story cement
building, and plans are in place for a new
The chicken industry is just as terrifying.
Chickens are confined in huge
windowless sheds, in cages lined up on
top of one another. The conditions are
filthy and the cages so small the animals
can’t spread their wings or perform other
natural behaviors. Excessive antibiotic use
keeps the birds alive.
Even farmed fish must be heavily
medicated to survive in miserable
conditions. Imagine the stress these
animals, who have evolved to swim freely
in expansive oceans or lakes, must feel
stuck inside small netted areas. At some
fish farms, as many as 30 percent of fish
die before slaughter.
Despite the devastating reality of China’s
factory farming landscape, there is hope.
Most Chinese residents are aware of the
negative health effects of eating meat.
And in a recent survey, a whopping 84
percent stated they would be willing to
adopt a vegetarian diet for at least one
day a week.
However, activism strategies that have
worked in the U.S. may not work in China.
In another survey, more than half of
respondents said they had never heard
the term “animal welfare.”
Yet 70 percent said they believed it was
“somewhat” or “extremely” inappropriate
to raise pigs on cement floors, and 74
percent consider killing birds in front of
other birds “somewhat” or “extremely”
In bigger cities, thousands of people
attend veg fests every year. At last year’s
annual Shanghai VegFest, attendees
enthusiastically swarmed MFA’s table to
pick up vegetarian resources and ask
questions about how animals are treated
at factory farms. Even more encouraging,
many expressed interest in helping our
A growing movement of animal activists in China is making progress on issues ranging from animal performances to experimentation and farming.
And while no law currently exists to
protect farmed animals, China does
have strong laws protecting wildlife and
The sentiments that inspired these laws
could give rise to new legislation to
protect farmed animals. MFA plans to
help make this happen.
A PATH FORWARD
MFA has staff in Asia focused on building
out Chinese-language resources and
bringing plant-based advocacy to the
Active Facebook and Weibo
communities keep MFA supporters
connected and informed on farmed
animal advocacy issues. And the
platforms expand the grassroots network
of people ready to take more action for
The Chinese version of MFA’s ChooseVeg
resources, tips, one-on-one support, and
recipes. A free vegetarian starter guide
and series of helpful emails set people
on a path toward meat-free eating.
In Latin America and Brazil, MFA’s food
policy program is reshaping how major
institutions like hospitals and schools
serve food—reducing meat and dairy by
at least 20 percent. Public health and the
environment have long been important
to people in Asia, so introducing this
program in the region has the potential
to create immense impact.
Your support is helping us grow our programs and build a network of local, on-the-ground activists in the region who are ready to change the game for animals.