Chinese Supermarket Chain in Legal Trouble Over Sale of Live Animals

By: Justin Chan

A debate over the sale of live animals in Virginia has turned into an issue over whether authorities are targeting Asian food businesses.

According to the Washington Post, a court in Fairfax County will decide whether managers of the popular Chinese supermarket chain, Great Wall Supermarket, violated a law that protects native species and criminalizes those who poach wild animals for meat, pelts and antlers. Great Wall operates across the country and has regularly sold live seafood, but a tw0-month undercover sting has put the grocery chain in trouble with the law. Those who have sided with the law, including conservationists and animal rights activists, have argued that the Virginia's wildlife needs to be protected from becoming endangered.

"History has shown when wildlife becomes commercialized, the population dwindles," said Rich Landers, a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officer. "Whether it's elephant tusks or whales, we are trying to reduce the chances that wildlife becomes commercialized."

The managers of the supermarket say otherwise and claim that the authorities are simply targeting immigrant groups. Although the animals that were seized during the sting are banned from sale because they are classified as wildlife, one manager argued that they were all farm-raised and not taken from local streams or rivers. He, along with other managers, will fight the charges and hope to change the state's wildlife law.

"If Chinese people like to eat yellow eels and it's part of their traditional diets - just like Russian people like to eat fish eggs - and those eels are farm raised and are not an endangered species .€‰.€‰. why not?" said Shaoming Cheng, the attorney who currently represents the managers in the case.

Virginia does hold some exceptions in cases involving wildlife.  The government issues permits for those who stock ponds with game fish and sell crayfish and bullfrogs for food. In the case involving Great Wall, no permits had been issued to the chain that would have allowed it to sell such animals. The undercover sting led to the confiscation of many of the supermarket's underwater delicacies and warrants for the managers who ignored prior warnings.

"You really have to be a flagrant violator to rise to the level of us seeking charges," Landers said.

Photo: dcmaster

For more on food politics, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)